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Fall fireworks

More than any other phenomenon, the turning leaves are nature’s signal flags for a change in season. It was never more obvious than last week as I drove up to Starkville for our Extension annual conference and a combined visit with my family. The foliar fireworks between Jackson and Starkville were stunning. I was entertained by natures beauty during what is normally the most boring drive on the face of the Earth!

Fall is an excellent time to plant trees. Cooler temperatures and winter rainfall will give opportunity for plant material to ‘settle in’ before next summer’s heat.  Trees planted in the fall will also be less likely to experience transplant shock. There are so many trees that you could choose for your landscape for never fail fall color. Below are a few that I love.

• Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) — The tiers of white flowers that clothe the branches in spring are quite enough to sell anyone on this tree. But then comes the second show in fall, with dropping red leaves and bright red berries. Remember that dogwood prefers light shade rather than full sun.

• Ginkgo (Gingko biloba) – Although native to China, Gingko is right at home in Mississippi. It’s unusual fan shaped leaves turn a bright, golden yellow. The leaves shed quickly and completely — but look almost as beautiful scattered on the ground as they did on the tree.  There are male and female Gingko trees. The female produces a foul smelling fruit, so plant only male selections such as Saratoga or Shangri-La.

• Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum) – This is absolutely one of my favorite trees. It is one of the earliest native trees to exhibit fall color — showing off leaves in brilliant shades of yellows, reds and purples — predominantly red. In summer it is covered with long panicles of white, fragrant flowers. Among native trees, Sourwood is second only to Dogwood.

• Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica) — You can count on this native tree to be among the first to change color in the fall. It is hard to find in the nursery trade but well worth the hunt. It has bluish black fruit that ripen in the fall and is eaten by many species of birds and mammals. It grows best in semi-shade or full sun.

These are just a few trees that can bring fall fireworks to your landscape. Check with your local nurseries, they are well stocked for fall and winter planting.

Rebecca Bates is director of the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service. To contact her, call 601-835-3460.