GARDENING: Fall is best time to make tree, shrub purchase |

GARDENING: Fall is best time to make tree, shrub purchase

Curt Swift
Free Press Gardening Columnist
Colorful trees during autumn
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Now would be a great time to see the color change of trees and shrubs and make a decision as to what trees and shrubs you want to add to your landscape next year. Just take a drive around town. If you don’t know the name of the tree, you can always take a sample to the extension office at the Mesa County Fairgrounds for identification.

What you really need, however, is the name of the cultivar of the tree. People who know those names best work at our local nurseries and that is where I would suggest you take the samples. Usually, a leaf is sufficient for identification; however, you should draw a diagram of the arrangement the leaves on the stem. Make a note indicating if the leaves on the stem are opposite each other or in an alternating pattern. This will help the individual identify the plant.

Once you know the name of the cultivar, then you can do some further research by going on the internet. Keep in mind, however, the photographs you see on the internet for that specific cultivar are not necessarily a great representation of what the tree might look like in your landscape. Soil fertility, the texture and structure of the soil, the light intensity, and even the length of day affect the coloration of the leaves. It is therefore better to look at trees in the local area when you make a decision.

Many nurseries have balled and burlapped trees you can look at. You might be able to get a good deal this fall if you purchase the tree for planting this fall. It might even be possible if you go to a nursery where trees are being grown in the field. They might even allow you to mark the trees you like to be dug and delivered next spring.

I purchased an ‘Autumn Blaze’ pear several years ago as I had seen other trees of the same cultivar around town with their beautiful reddish-purple fall color. This tree has exhibited a better color this fall than previously but it is still not as good as the photographs on the internet or of some around town. Either the tree I bought is not an ‘Autumn Blaze’ or it was not started from a cutting but was started from seed from an Autumn Blaze here. The environmental conditions may also be slightly different at my home than in other parts of town, so don’t expect the plant that you purchase to be identical to the one that is advertised. There are several interesting trees that have color most of the season that should do well as replacements to ash. Some of the maples are very fine in comparison to ash as they have yellow and red fall coloration. The ‘Sensation’ Boxelder is another one of my favorites due to its leaf coloration.


Some homeowners are rightfully concerned about the Emerald Ash Borer moving into this area. When that occurs, we will have serious problems with our urban forest. When you walk around the neighborhood parks you’ll find that a lot of the trees are ash. Even though ash give our area a multitude of colors and combinations of colors, some people are still concerned that they might lose these trees within a few years of getting them to a size they can enjoy.

Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at, 970-778-7866 or check out his blog at He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.

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