When I landscaped my yard a few years ago, I chose trees that I thought would give me fall color. But they’ve been a disappointment. Does good fall color happen only on mature trees?
The ability to produce brilliant fall color is based on a tree’s genetics, not its age. Some species and cultivars are better than others at producing the pigments that light up autumn.
In addition, climate and weather play a big role. Sunny fall days and cold (but not freezing) nights encourage sugar production and retention in the leaves, which in turn promote more of the red and purple pigments known as anthocyanins. Some regions, such as New England, have a color-promoting climate. The same species can display different amounts of color in different regions.
But sometimes weather spoils the show. Summer drought or excessive autumn heat decreases pigment formation. A hard freeze in early fall can turn leaves directly from green to brown. Because temperatures and rainfall vary from year to year, no two falls are identical.
The best way to select trees for fall color is to look around your community in a typical fall and see which trees are the most colorful. Or check regional sources of information, such as your state’s cooperative extension office. —Doug Hall
After her daffodils were done blooming, my neighbor spent hours braiding their leaves into tidy bundles. I don’t have time for that. Am I hurting the bulbs by not braiding the leaves?
Just the opposite. This is another example of the benefit of standing aside and letting nature do its job.
Think of leaves as solar collectors. Every bit of sunlight that falls on the leaves is transformed through the process of photosynthesis into carbohydrate reserves that are stored in the bulbs. The more photosynthesis, the more energy the bulbs stockpile, which results in a bigger floral display next year.
Anything that reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the bulb foliage will decrease next year’s flowering. This is true of all spring-flowering bulbs, not just daffodils. Your neighbor’s braiding technique, as well as the practice of bundling bulb foliage with rubber bands, won’t prevent the bulbs from returning but it certainly reduces the number and size of next year’s flowers. Even intermingling the bulbs with perennials, such as hostas and daylilies, so the bulb foliage disappears among the emerging perennials, will slightly reduce the bulbs’ future performance.
Allow the leaves to mature fully, until they’ve lost their green color, before clipping them off. Admittedly, tattered daffodil foliage that lingers into June is less than glamorous. In my garden, I operate under the theory that if there are dazzling flowers in another part of the garden in late spring—I recommend peonies, roses, bearded irises, clematis, and poppies—no one will notice the fading bulb foliage. —Doug Hall