Rhus trilobata: A Winner by Any Name

Rhus trilobata_Three-leaf Sumac_DenverZoo_20091007_LAH_3355.nef

All summer, the shrub sat in the back corner of our yard, quietly filling the space between the fence and a dry creek bed. The olive-green leaves were a bit drab, but provided a nice, neutral backdrop for an adjacent Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris). The shrub had been a bit late to leaf out, and I was contemplating replacing it with something more interesting. I’m glad I waited. In the last few weeks, that inconspicuous shrub has suddenly become the star of the garden. Continue reading “Rhus trilobata: A Winner by Any Name”

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)

euonymus-alata-burning-bush-kellyjohnsonblvd-colospgs-22oct2005-lah-108You’ve never noticed the shrub before. Its rounded green leaves and vase shape let it lurk unobtrusively in the background, where it may eventually grow to 15 feet tall and wide. Then, seemingly overnight, there’s a neon-fuchsia beacon glowing in the landscape. Fall has arrived, and the Burning Bush is on fire.

Also known as Winged Euonymus, both the species and a variety of named cultivars are widely available in garden centers. (Most of these cultivars are significantly more compact than the parent shrubs.) Deciduous leaves appear in mid-spring, accompanied by inconspicuous yellow flowers. Orange seeds are borne in orange-red capsules that mature at the same time as the spectacular fall foliage display.

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The Other Golden Tree

lah_3322What comes to mind when I describe a tree that has heart-shaped leaves, is in the poplar genus, grows well in Colorado and turns a brilliant gold in the fall? Chances are, you didn’t immediately think of cottonwoods. Yet, when it comes to putting on a show, cottonwoods are every bit as spectacular as their close kin, the aspen. In many ways, they are the other iconic Colorado tree. Find any stream, pond, or irrigation ditch, and chances are there will be at least one cottonwood growing next to it. They are riparian trees, and prefer to have their feet wet.

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Quaking Aspen in the Landscape

populus-tremuloides-aspen-fall-color-gleneagle-area-18oct2005-lah-018Stands of bright gold aspen shimmering in the sunlight are a spectacular sight, so it is no surprise that many people plant aspen in their home landscapes. Sadly, aspen is probably not the best choice for local gardens. The same qualities that make aspen perfectly suited for colonizing mountainsides denuded by fire, rock slides and avalanches create problems in more constrained spaces.

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