Aspens are Choice Trees for Mountain Landscapes

09/06/2013 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Landscaping, Trees, Uncategorized

aspen tree bark“H-O-T” is the only word to describe the west walls of our homes during the afternoon hours in Arizona.  That baking sun can roast western exposure plants as it’s causing A/C bills to skyrocket. Best at coping with a western exposure are tall deciduous trees. Every spring, their fresh new leaves create much-needed shade from that afternoon fireball. Because they lose their leaves in fall, their bare branches allow penetration of winter’s sun to warm that side of a house.

Quaking aspen have a tall columnar form that can provide good shade in small backyards or between homes at the property lines, especially where that hot western sun bakes exterior walls.  Aspens also can effectively shade patios and will grow tall enough to eventually shade second story decks.

With their famous “quaking leaves”, aspens ornament windy hilltops, and the Arizona variety shows off with the best of them.  The slightest breeze causes the leaves to “dance”, their moving and swirling adding another dimension to the landscape that is unique to the mountains.

The aspen’s format, taller with less width, is perfect for framing vistas.  In landscape designs I like placing aspens at decks and patios, using them as a picture frame that guides the eye towards the perfect sunset, a mountain peak, or down toward a meadow view.  They don’t take over the yard after several years like so many other fast growing trees.

Garden centers are stocking up with autumn aspen, easily identified by their golden colors and paper white bark.  If you are looking for a really tall, up to 25-foot high, Aspen specimen, now through October is the only time you will find the largest sizes available.  I have several spectacular aspens in stock that are taller than the peaks of my tallest greenhouse!

To reduce transplant shock, some garden writers suggest planting aspens in autumn right after the leaves have fallen.  I prefer to plant aspen while the monsoon season still is delivering its liquid gold.  The rains increase planting success, and the landscape can enjoy established golden autumn colors through October.  Whether planted when leaves are still green or after leaf drop, this is an ideal season to be planting a new aspen.

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September is the month to install a new lawn, extend an existing yard, or over seed the grass in a tired lawn.  Whether you install grass by seed or sod, success hinges on your preparation of the soil.

LawnRemove rocks and kill the weeds in the area where you want to put your lawn. Remove any large dirt clods and correct any irregularities in the grade. Add about 2″ of mulch to the soil and then till to a depth of 6 inches. Settle the area with a roller or heavy application of water. Never plant grass seed on “fluffy” soil or you end up with an uneven, rolling lawn. Rake, or “scarify”, the surface to form a loosened seedbed.

Apply both Soil Activator and my specially blended “All Purpose Plant Food” 7-4-4 over the raked seedbed. Soil Activator stimulates deep roots; the plant food promotes fast development of those luscious green blades. Now you are ready to spread seed.

There are two varieties of grass that hold their green for most of the year. One is called the “Prescott Mix”, a blend of perennial rye and blue grass. The rich green color is soft to look at and even softer to walk on. While this old-timers’ favorite is the one seen in photographs and magazine covers, its negative aspect is the considerable amount of water required for successful up-keep.

Fescue is the second and tougher of the two varieties. It is deep rooted and requires far less water. It bounces back from heavy traffic and daily abuse from kids and dogs. I know because this is the lawn chosen for our homes, and it has stood up to heavy use every time. Fescue lawns have a wide yet soft blade, and it has that nice clean look after mowing. Irrigate no more than about twice a week even during the hottest days in June.

For over seeding do not spread grass seed directly onto thatchy areas; the seeds will float and never get a taproot down into the surrounding soil.  Rake out the existing lawn’s dead thatch areas to expose the soil beneath.  Sowing on bare soil gives the seed a place to germinate.

Roll the entire surface to press the soil around the seed or apply another heavy application of water. Cover the seeded bed with a light layer of mulch. This will regulate moisture, temperature, and keep the birds from dining on the seed. Right now our weather is so nice that the seed will germinate within days.

Zucchini PlantNew Contest!  Grow Your Zucchini contest – enter a photo of you and your prize winning squash and get the most votes to win one of many prizes (gift certificate compliments of The Healing Gardens and a Mum compliments of Armstrong Growers):

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.