Tag Archives: serviceberries

Perform a Sacred Act: Plant a Tree

In a few weeks, my newly planted autumn brilliance serviceberry will turn this color.

In a few weeks, my newly planted autumn brilliance serviceberry will turn this color.

I’ve always considered planting a tree to be one of life’s sacred acts.

Besides making the environment more beautiful, trees combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. They cool your home and streets, conserving energy. They provide food and a habitat for wildlife. What’s not to like?

So this week, as a first step in redesigning my front yard, I planted a multi-stem autumn brilliance serviceberry tree. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m gaga over serviceberries.

As far as I’m concerned, every garden needs at least one. Serviceberries provide white blossoms in the spring before other trees even wake up. Then in the summer, these plants produce delicious blue berries treasured by humans and birds alike. Finally, in the fall, serviceberries dazzle passersby with outstanding fall color. The autumn brilliance turns red-orange. Another of my favorites, the regent serviceberry, turns a fabulous golden color, sometimes mingled with coral.

So if you’re thinking about planting a tree, serviceberry or otherwise, now’s a good time. Trees are on sale at nurseries because garden centers want to reduce their inventories before winter. In addition, fall is one of the best times to plant because of increased rainfall after dry summers.

When planting a new tree, such as this autumn brilliance serviceberry, mulch around the root ball, but not on top of it.

When planting a new tree, such as this autumn brilliance serviceberry, mulch around the root ball, but not on top of it.

Although I’ve planted many trees and never lost one, I always check the Colorado State University website for the latest updates on tree-planting techniques before I plant a new tree. Techniques change as researchers discover new information about tree establishment and growth. So this time, I used Colorado Master Gardener GardenNotes #636, Tree Planting Steps. I especially like the labor-saving tip about creating a saucer-shaped planting hole during the backfill process.

One of the most common mistakes that homeowners make when planting a tree is planting the root ball too deep. So pay special attention to the depth of the planting hole in relation to the height of the root ball. I planted my young serviceberry so the top of the root ball was one inch above grade.

And don’t be shy about tearing into that root ball to untangle any girdling roots. If you plunk the tree into the ground without untangling the roots, the roots will likely continue to grow in a circle around the root ball instead of venturing out into surrounding soil for nutrients.

If you plant a tree correctly (and yes, you can do it yourself), you’ll enjoy a beautiful, healthy tree for years to come.

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Ogren’s ‘Allergy-Fighting Garden’ Can Help You Breathe Easier

The reddish-gold leaves of the low-allergen Regent serviceberry brighten a garden in the fall.

The reddish-gold leaves of the low-allergen Regent serviceberry brighten a garden in the fall.

When I consult with my landscape design clients, I typically ask if any family members have allergies. Over the years, I’ve learned that landscaping with low-allergen plants can improve an allergy sufferer’s quality of life considerably.

For a reference guide, I’ve used Thomas Leo Ogren’s Allergy-Free Gardening: The Revolutionary New Guide to Healthy Landscaping. This week, Ten Speed Press released Ogren’s latest book, The Allergy-Fighting Garden, and I like it even better than his earlier book.

In The Allergy-Fighting Garden, Ogren again includes his Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALS) for ranking various plants. He has updated the rankings since publishing Allergy-Free Gardening in 2000. He also devotes a chapter to eliminating mold spores, a major source of allergic reactions. Then there’s his chapter on allergy-blocking hedges.

Ogren rates plants on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being lowest in allergens, and 10 being highest. Using Ogren’s rankings, what low-allergen plants might you install in your Colorado garden?

For ground covers, you could use prairie winecups (Callirhoe involucrata), veronica, soapwort (Saponaria), orange carpet hummingbird (Zauschneria garrettii) and cranesbill geraniums, all of which I’ve grown successfully in my Denver garden. They rank from 1 to 3.

Blue iris and pink allium add beauty to your garden without producing masses of allergens.

Blue iris and pink allium add beauty to your garden without producing masses of allergens.

As for taller bulbs and perennials, try iris, allium, tall garden phlox, geum, Jupiter’s beard (Centranthus ruber), hummingbird mint (Agastache), sea lavender (Limonium), wild indigo (Baptisia australis), Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus).

Then of course, there are trees and shrubs to consider. They’re particularly important because the males (who are the pollen producers) generate significantly more allergens than smaller plants do. Good choices include hawthorns (Crataegus), barberry (Berberis), butterfly bushes (Buddleia), red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), deciduous viburnums, serviceberries (Amelanchier), and some maples, such as Acer rubrum ‘Autumn Glory’, ‘October Glory’ and ‘Red Sunset.’

Avoid most grasses, especially Kentucky bluegrass, whose male cultivars carry a 9 rating. But be aware that the female cultivars (if you can find one) carry only a 1 rating. A good choice for turf grass is tall fescue, which Ogren ranks at 3.

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Low-Maintenance Gardening In a High-Maintenance World

WHINER.  Arbovitae, easily sunburned, also has branches prone to snow breakage.

WHINER. Arbovitae, easily sunburned, also has branches prone to snow breakage.

My goal in life is a low-maintenance landscape.  I have no patience for spoiled, whiny plants.

You know who you are . . . you suckering aspen, you sun-scorched arborvitae, you neurotically reseeding salvias (especially you, Mr. Clary Sage), you blanket flowers (Gaillardia) and tickseed (Coreopsis) who need deadheading every 15 minutes.

Give me the strong, silent types who perform dependably year in and year out with no complaint.  I’m talking about you shrub roses, serviceberries, hawthorns, dogwoods (Cornus sericea and kousa, not Cornus florida), daylilies, sedums and crabapples.  A landscaper once told me he has never lost a crabapple tree.  Never.

When buying plants, don’t hesitate to ask garden center employees about plants’ maintenance needs and weed potential.  That way, you’ll avoid a tragic relationship with a ground-gobbling perennial or a breaky-branch shrub.

Gaillardia

WHINER. Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora) develops prickly seedheads that are difficult to deadhead.

WINNER. Livin’ Easy rose is a low-maintenance floribunda with excellent repeat bloom.

Cornus sericea 'Istanti'

WINNER. Isanti dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Isanti’) provides 4-season interest with no complaints.

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