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Maple trees can add an autumn blast

The autumn season can be beautiful in the northern parts of the country with all of the beautiful colors. In our area, the colors are usually limited to greens, golds and browns with a few brilliant colors mixed in. As time has moved along and new cultivars have been developed, we are getting more trees with reds and oranges in their fall displays. Many of these new varieties are included in the group of trees known as maples.

Maple trees have been around for eons, but with the new varieties that have been developed people are taking notice and starting to add them into the landscape. Education is key to the general public as many people know what they are like when they see it, but few of us know what these plant materials are unless we ask about them.

One of the most common maple trees in our area is the very large silver maple that tends to get chlorotic in our alkali soils, but healthy ones will turn a nice yellow in fall. Most of the colored maples grow in more acidic soils that typically exist in northern Minnesota locations or surrounding the Great Lakes into the New England states. Many tours are given in that region when the colors are at their peak to hundreds of thousands of tourist looking to get that perfect photo.

Boxelder is another type of maple tree that grows freely in our region with few disease issues, but it rarely gets much for an autumn color. Typically it gets a light yellow at best before dropping their leaves. This can also be a very weak tree as it ages rotting from the inside out. Not the best specimen tree to have in one’s yard.

One of the most beautiful maple species out there is the amur maples. These are more compact trees typically with multiple stems and reaching under 25 feet in height. Their darkgreen foliage turns to fiery shades of orange and crimson once the fall season arrives. Their colors hold well and long during the season unlike many other trees. “Flame” and “Compact” amur maple are very common with newer varieties such as “Embers” and “Red Wing,” which develop red seed samaras along with the brilliant foliage.

Tatarian maples are similar to the amur maples, however, they are more adaptable to alkali soils and also get beautiful fall foliage of yellow, orange and red. These also have red or pink seed samaras for added color in the summer months.

Sugar maples are common in the Minnesota region and in the eastern parts of the United States. These also develop beautiful orange and red colors during the season contrasting well to the other trees that surround them.

The Freeman maples are a cross between the silver and red maple that has gotten some new cultivars over the past decade too that are showing great promise for brilliant fall colors. “Autumn Blaze,” “Sienna Glen” and “Scarlet Sentinel” all produce orange to red color during September and October. This year it is later than most, but what a wonderful addition to our local scene.

“Crimson King” maple is a red-leafed maple that is less hardy in our area, but as long as the trunk is shaded during the winter months, this one can perform quite well in most years. Direct sun on the smooth trunk will cause the bark to split in winter and cause sun scald resulting in stress that may eventually kill the tree. Their beautiful red/ purple leaves will change to a copper/orange color in fall to really pact one last punch of color.

Shrubs and bushes are a little more varied with autumn shades and a little more numerous. Always check out the burning bush, the cotoneaster, sumac and ninebarks to list a few of the more flamboyant selections to add life to the garden.

Maples in our area have become much more common than they use to be, and a big part of that has to do with their autumn colors that they create. I, for one, am so glad we are getting more of these selections to liven up our fall scene as they really stand out among all the yellows and golds that seem to be so prevalent!

The season is going by quickly as autumn so often does. Try getting out and seeing the last of the colors before the next strong wind blows to take the rest of the leaves away. It won’t be long before all we see are bare branches of brown and gray lying in their dormancy awaiting the first snows to fall so they can rest until spring. We have had such a nice season so far and there are still many beautiful days on the way before the cold moves in, so make the most of it all and breathe in the last of the fall freshness.