God’s Spectacular Paintbrush – Part 1

Authored by Sheldon Falk - Owner
Oct 1st, 2019
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I have a question, am I the only one, or do others find fall slightly depressing? It is the downsizing of summer, and as a child it was the purgatorial return to school. The temperatures plummeted, the days got shorter, and I could not be outside as much as I wanted to. That hasn’t changed for me, but some things certainly have now after having endured work in sweltering summers and not having to return to sit still in a classroom, fall isn’t quite as bad as it once was.

However the thing that keeps me in wonder of God’s spectacular paintbrush is the fall colours. Anyone who has travelled east in the fall has marvelled at the flamboyant orange-red Sugar Maples and fire engine red colours we just seem to be missing here in the prairies. Fortunately for us that has changed in recent years. Although we do not have the luxury of the native trees going red, we do have the chance to plant many other varieties that will set the landscape on fire with shades of orange, red, burgundy and even purple. This certainly adds some pizzazz to our native collections of yellow and antique golden brown. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of those buttery yellows the Lindens offer, and the bright yellows of the Ash, Elm, Poplar, Willow, and Birch, but we are just missing something. Now the prairie native plants don’t only have yellow tones, there are also some orange, bronze and burgundy colours of the native undergrowth. Some of the shrubs in this category would be Arrowood, Cranberries, Dogwoods, Nanny Pin Cherry, and even Chokecherry. BUT… just spend some time in the Carolina Forest around Toronto or the Eastern Forests of Nova Scotia and you will see vivid colours that defy words. The Sugar Maple can be a fluorescent orange red. The Red Maples can be a true fire engine red to blood red. 

One of the earliest introductions of a hardy red fall colour came through the small, shrubby, Amur Maple. Is it a bush or a tree? The mature size seldom exceeds 20 feet and the sporadic nature of the branching gives it a bit of a shrubby look. But it often has a very good orange to blood red fall colour. Finding hardy sources for orange and red fall colours has led us to Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. These trees have the colour of the Maples and Oaks of the east but the cold hardiness of that near to the prairies. Many selections have made their entrance into our market. I will save the details and growing requirements for each individual variety for other blogs. I would just like to give you a list of some of the trees well worth trying, giving you have a slightly sheltered and well-drained property.

To start, the Sugar Maple grows as close to a hundred twenty miles from Southern Manitoba. Travel to Crookston, Minnesota and a little further south east you will notice a place called Maple Lake. Go for a drive through and you’ve entered another realm. Gently rolling terrain with good-sized mature stands of native sugar maple will amaze you. It is from this region that we have successfully developed trees hardy enough to thrive in our sheltered environments. The substantial leaf and potential colour is hard to beat.

But that is a story to be continued next week!

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