Not all trees are created equal when it comes to autumn colors, and this is their season. Autumn is also the ideal planting window for trees and tall shrubs. Increased garden success is had when plants are showing their colors. The days are cool and the soil warm, so plants start with a burst of new root growth.

Trees increase the value of your home more than spas and grills. Most properties don’t have enough trees. You can count on one hand the number of trees in the average landscape. Trees stand out in any landscape like anchors that bring together the foundation of a good plan.

Don’t waste money by cutting corners. Trees are where the landscape value is and no place to pinch pennies. Buy the best-looking tree you can find, bigger-is-better. Nice looking trees at the garden center turn into big, bold specimens as they mature. An ugly tree only stays ugly its entire life. Cut landscape dollars on shrubs, flowers, and hedges so your budget can afford a few specimen-sized trees to enhance your outdoor. Here are the top picks for consistent autumn color.

Red Prescott Maple – The fastest growing shade tree blazed in reds and orange through Autumn. It produces a tall narrow tree with ascending branches more resistant to wind and storm damage. Widely used as a street tree, driveway lining, or anyplace tight spaces demand a tree that will not spread past 20 feet with the brightest reds in fall.

Flame Maple – This little maple is famous for blazing red foliage that ignites a landscape. It’s well adapted to mountain clay soils, sun, wind, and cold winters. Once rooted in your landscape, it’s easy on irrigation and perfect for fire-wise landscape needs. Though sometimes mistaken for a Japanese Maple, this mountain variety is far hardier of the two trees. Whether grown as a short multi-trunk tree or a 10′ shrub, it is on my list of preferred ‘water-wise’ plants.

Ornamental Pistachio – are for gardens exposed to the wind and subjected to micro-bursts or other weather anomalies. This showoff thrives not only in harsh environments but neglect. The attractive umbrella shape turns a brilliant crimson; no other tree produces such a vibrant, broad range of fall reds and orange. It can serve dozens of uses: as a shade tree, street tree, accent, or front yard specimen. The ideal tree to flank driveways. Grow this colorful low water tree against a solid evergreen background to provide intense contrast in the landscape.

Aristocrat Pear – the last tree to turn Autumn red in December, but celebrates the other three seasons as well. Producing gigantic masses of white flowers in spring before the leaves appear, followed by glowing green leaves through summer that are disease and bug resistant. In winter, the clean winter outline is upright to pyramidal when young. It becomes broadly oval at maturity that resists wind damage. The autumn colors are disputed to be brighter than maple and rival the purple of Raywood ash.

Quaking Aspen – for the past four years, the undisputed best-seller here at Watters Garden Center is Quaking Aspen, Populus tremuloides, or trembling leaf poplar. Growing in the wild at the 6000+ elevations, it does well as a cultivated specimen. Aspens have the classic pure white bark like birch but handle our clay soils better. True to their name, the delicate leaves shiver, and quake at the slightest breeze. For a natural look with aspens, plant them in clusters, or buy a clump of aspens in the same container. They are social trees and like to hang out together in groupings—best planted before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Until next issue, I’ll be helping gardeners plant just the right trees here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at or