Fatting for deciduous trees

The definition of a deciduous tree is simply one that sheds its leaves every fall and generates new ones the following spring. Good landscape trees in this group include maple, dogwood, beech, gingko, cherry, katsura, birch, linden, oak, tuliptree, buckeye, ash, palo verde, sweetgum, aspen, and redbud. Consider all your options! Each of these trees comes in many different forms or varieties. A well-stocked nursery should offer many options.

Deciduous trees keep life interesting. They have a different appearance in every season — fresh new leaves in spring; often flowers in spring or summer; possibly a fall leaf-color change; and finally, a stark, architectural profile and perhaps interesting bark in the winter months. Many of these trees also bear fruit or nuts — see Chapter 15 for information on these types of trees.

Many deciduous trees end the gardening year in a blaze of glory, especially in colder-climate areas. Because you generally purchase young trees in the springtime, you may forget about fall color. But if autumn color is desirable, find out whether your chosen tree is known to put on a show. Some Japanese maples, for instance, are pretty but plain green-leaved trees all season until fall creates an astounding and spectacular change to crimson, orange, burgundy, or cherry red.

Favorite trees for spectacular fall color include maples (especially Japanese and sugar maples), gingko, sweetgum, katsura, hawthorn, sassafras, crape myrtle, sourwood, and mountain ash.

By and large, deciduous trees tend to grow faster than evergreens, making them a good choice where you want faster gratification, faster results. Within the different kinds, or species, the speed of growth varies considerably — ask when you buy. Growing conditions are also a factor. If your site is stressful for a tree (poor soil, not enough light, windy, and so on), it won't perform as expected. Fast growers include willow, tuliptree, poplar, and gray birch.

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