Good trees for urban gardens: Fall color 2016 — going, going, almost gone

We continue our series highlighting trees that work for gardens in Edmonds. It’s presented by Master Gardener Barbara Chase, who serves on the Edmonds Tree Board.

The beautiful fall days with their bright colors are on their way out. As we enter November, rain and wind cause trees to lose their colorful leaves. But some hang on until December. If you don’t have much fall color, here are possibilities for Edmonds gardens.

The City of Edmonds has some beautiful street trees. The Bowhall maple on Dayton is one lovely planting with beautiful fall color. It grows straight, narrow and tall. According to our Parks Manager Rich Lindsay, its roots rarely cause problems.

Enkianthus is a shrub/tree. It is very slow growing but its beautiful fall color is worth the wait. It has small flowers similar to blueberry flowers. They have few problems

Japanese maples vary in the time they lose their leaves, but there is still a lot of color in late October. Acer palmatum “Dissectum” hangs on to its leaves into November.

The “Smoke Tree” (cotinus) is a good tree for small places. They rarely grow more than 15 feet. They will thrive in hot, dry places. Cotinus coggyria has several varieties (“Royal Purple and ‘Pink Champagne”) with colors changing through the season in reddish purple tones and in red yellow mixtures. “Grace” is a cross between cotinus coggyria and cotinus obovatus. It has beautiful fall color in dark orange tones. They are rarely susceptible to diseases and are tough trees — a good choice for gardeners who do not want to spray and like low maintenance. Pruning to shape them is the main task.

The “Red Buds,” cercis Canadensis, is a striking tree that stays small. The color of the leaves (a mix of red, orange and yellow) makes the tree a good focal point. “Forest Pansy” is one of the most popular redbuds.

The very red liquidambar trees at the edge of the Westgate Chapel parking lot is a striking planting. Liquidambars do get big (to 80 feet) and the roots can cause problems, so they are not recommended for small lots or as trees along sidewalks. But they are tough trees so can be useful in the right place.

The weeping willow seen occasionally around Edmonds can grow very large (40 feet x 40 feet). Some of Its narrow leaves turn yellow in the fall and can hang on until December. However, the tree is only recommended with reservations. The roots are always looking for water and can cause problems with pipes that carry water. Before planting one, consult with an expert to see if the site is appropriate.

If you are thinking about adding a tree for fall color, visit nurseries in early fall. Then you will be sure of the color you will have. Nurseries often have trees on sale and you may find them in November. It is still a good time to plant trees as long as the temperature is above freezing.

— By Barbara Chase

  1. Thank you for a great article with wonderful photos. We have some lovely trees
    here in Edmonds and this may interest others in planting something new in
    their gardens. I hope people will be encouraged to plant trees here to replace all
    the ones that are being eliminated all over town.

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