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In Your Garden: Fall color

Did your Autumn Splendor maple turn out to be an autumn flop? As much as they were touted as the best new thing for fall color, they turned out to be only minimally hardy here in the frozen north.

Just because a plant, tree or shrub does well in Minneapolis, is not a guarantee it will here in zone 3. Remember Endless Summer hydrangea? She winters and blooms in the cities, but here is more apt to be called Endless Bummer. All that tar and flat hot roofs in Minneapolis raises the temperatures and makes for a mini climate that we don’t have. That being said, there are some new cultivars of maple trees that are worth a look.

The native red and sugar maples have many cultivars that are readily available all over the state and are good zone 3 choices. However, if you want something a little different, there are several other maples you might want to check out. They should be coming into their fall colors in local nurseries about now.

Autumn Spire was a University of Minnesota introduction in 1992 from a seed source near Grand Rapids.  The fall color is a brilliant red, it is seedless and its upright shape makes it a great pick for a small yard.  In 1980 the U introduced Northwood. It is more oval, providing more shade than Spire. Its fall foliage is a bright orange red.  She would look great against a dark brown house.

Baileys’ Nurseries has been working with maples too. They have 3 new cultivars they say are zone 3 hardy.  Northfire has bright red foliage and comes from Landsburg Landscape and Nurseries in Brainerd.  First Editions Scarlet Jewell was selected in northern Minnesota. It’s upright and turns deep crimson about 2 weeks earlier that the other maples.  Then there is Fall Fiesta for those of you who want more than just red. Its leaves are red, yellow and orange, and it grows quite rapidly. One nice thing about this tree is that you don’t need to wrap its stem as long as most of the others. It is resistant to sun scald and frost cracks. Most smooth and thin barked trees need winter protection until they develop thicker bark. Just remember to remove the protection in the spring. The bark can heat up inside a tube or wrap and split, permanently damaging the tree.

If you don’t care for red trees in the fall, there are a few that turn yellow.  Baileys has a cultivar of paper birch called Prairie Dream.  They describe it as stress-tolerant and resistant to the bronze birch borer that kills so many of our native white birches. It turns a bright golden yellow in fall.

A very underused native tree is the Juneberry/Serviceberry. It is a three season tree. It has white blossoms in spring followed by purplish-black fruit the birds love, and in fall brilliant red orange leaves against a light gray bark.

Our severe weather thins out the gene pool of both people and plants.  These colorful zone 3 trees should give us tough Minnesotans a little color to tide us though until the unassembled snow men that fall, melt next spring.

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