An autumn like we have been experiencing is rare. Trees have been slow to drop leaves and the colors have been breathtaking. It makes you understand why so many people cherish their trees and shower care on them.

The upper northeast United States is known for its fall foliage. Autumn bus tours fill rapidly for people to view the colors and get ideas for trees for other regions. Jamestown could have been on that tour this year. Sure, it’s great to get away, but going anywhere these days requires planning beyond the norm. The 2020 pandemic has cast problems into most plans made from March and earlier.

Besides, why not just enjoy what’s close to home in the safety of your own transportation, and maybe you can get some ideas for spring planting in 2021 based on some trees you see already thriving in our own hardiness zone (4)?.

Carol McIlravy (Don’s House of Flowers) recommended a tree (Hot Wings maple) that has lovely year-round color and a warm, autumn blend of reds and golds. Autumn Blaze is one of my fall-time favorite red maples (though sometimes susceptible to poor soils and drainage). This year many apricot trees have put on a show. They have a lovely spring bloom and fruit, but the 2020 fall leaf coloration is apricot to golden yellow. Against any evergreen, their colors contrast like neon. Hardy to zone 3 and do well in our soil, they come in Chinese varieties as well as hybridized. The dogwoods and trumpet vines also added warm colors, varying from coral and peach to scarlet for the invasive vines. Trees along the river usually give the brightest display and are worth a kayak trip in the fall.

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Years back, when we were living down south, we’d look forward to a few crisp autumn nights in late October or November to picnic by white-water rivers. It took a day to get there, set up a small camp and then get to watch the sun set behind the maples and sycamores, pin-oaks and long-needled pines. You needed to know your directions to be able to view the colors on the opposite banks at sunset. The closest parallel to what you’d see was a Persian carpet, or tapestry. Unlike here, where we have a vast array of land, being in front of a wall of color down there was almost more than the mind could imagine. It was truly sensation overload. Sassafras trees, poplars, dogwoods, sycamore, oaks, sumac and maples mixed with pine and cedar trees were about as colorful as anyone could imagine. Here at home, we get to see individual trees over a broader landscape. It allows a greater appreciation for tree form than just color.

Like Colorado and Arizona, we have more yellow and golds here, but the trees are every bit as elegant and majestic in the fall as they are in warmer climes. Listening to Otter Tail Power trimming trees in neighborhoods, I am saddened to realize we will lose some of the giants in the city. Power lines and large trees don’t coexist well in ice storms though, so as winter prep gets underway, some have to be trimmed back for safety later on.

With a drive around town, out to Arrowwood, Spiritwood or by our own James or Pipestem rivers, you’ll see some lovely examples of trees. Even one tree planted will help bring in wildlife and seasonal color changes. Check out local nurseries or garden club members for help in deciding what to plant.

If anyone has an item for this column, please contact Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.