Delights of the deciduous

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THE next couple of months is the ideal time to plant all manner of deciduous plants. Not the least, trees planted specifically to enjoy not only spring blossoms and summer shade, but autumn colour.

Brilliant foliage of Acer palmatum “Dissectum”... grown for their leaf colour rather than flowers .
Brilliant foliage of Acer palmatum “Dissectum”… grown for their leaf colour rather than flowers .
It is interesting that trees of the same variety have various degrees of colour that can vary considerably, depending if the stock is seed grown or cutting grown at the time of propagating.

If the plant is grown from seed, there can be infinite variations of leaf colour, whereas, if grown from cuttings, one is cloning the plant and all stock will be exactly the same.

One example of this is a group of Pistachia chinensis or Chinese Pistachio growing outside the Reid CIT. The leaf ranges from the deepest of autumn colours on some trees to almost all yellow on others.

One of the most popular trees for leaf colour is the Manchurian Pear or Pyrus ussuriensis.

Many years ago, when we had our nursery in Yass, this was the only variety available. One problem was its propensity for branches to split.

I recall Lady Stephens, the wife of the then Governor-General visiting our nursery in Yass, as she heard we had Manchurian pears and had been unable to get them elsewhere. I think we supplied the last 13 to be planted at Government House.

 

THERE are now numerous cultivars of a much-improved pear of the Calleryana variety. I will mention just a few of these with the approximate ultimate size, depending on the soil quality.

Always ask yourself: do I have sufficient space for these trees to grow naturally without savage pruning? One can see awful examples where they have been planted inappropriately as street trees under power lines. In many cases, it would have been better to have removed them and plant more suitable trees in their place. All ornamental pears have an abundance of white spring flowers and rich autumn leaf colour.

Pyrus Calleryana “Capital” is a good choice for a narrow space, growing to 11m tall and just 3.5m wide. Pyrus calleryana x betulaefolia “Edgedell” Edgewood is a small tree in height to 7.5m, but a wider spread of 6m. The attractive silver-green summer foliage changes to red and purple in autumn. Pyrus c. “Aristocrat” is a medium tree with superior branch structure growing to 11m x 7m. Of similar size but classed as an extremely tough all-rounder tree is Pyrus.c. “Chanticleer”.

 

SUGGESTIONS for smaller trees for smaller gardens include many varieties of Japanese maples. These are grown for their leaf colour rather than flowers and include Acer palmatum “Atropurpureum” to just 3m x 3m with bronze-purple foliage. Acer palmatum “Bonfire” 3m x 2.5m and, as the name suggests, has brilliant foliage in spring and autumn.

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Winged seed pods of Acer “Trompenburg”… originally from the Trompenburg Arboretum in Rotterdam.
Slightly larger is Acer “Bloodgood” 4m x 3m with purple leaves all summer and a naturally beautifully shaped tree. Acer “Tropenburg” 3m x 3m, is originally from the Trompenburg Arboretum in Rotterdam. I highly recommend both these trees for the smaller garden.

For colour and size for your particular needs, check out Acer platanoides “Crimson Sentry” 7m x 4m. and Prunus cerasifera “Oakville Crimson Spire” 6m x just 2m wide. I have not listed the larger trees such as Liquidamber, Claret Ash etcetera as these are unsuitable for the current size of housing blocks. I will discuss flowering deciduous trees in another article.

Things to do in the garden

  • When planting a hedge, dig a trench rather than a series of holes. The roots will spread and develop quicker and stronger.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and portable sprinklers overnight to prevent frost damage. Also, if you have to wash frost off plants it is easier to use the hose if it is kept in the shed overnight.
  • Paint outdoor garden timber furniture with a good-quality preservative.
  • Apply a dressing of garden lime to lawns to correct imbalances in soils.
  • Clean secateurs and pruning saws in readiness for winter pruning.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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