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Red Maple

(October 2012)

QuestionIn front of our house we have two 17'x17' plots of ground between sidewalks. We would like to plant a tree in each plot that would not eventually lift the sidewalks with their roots and would not get too tall. We have tried dogwoods, red buds, flowering cherry, but the full sun and heat got to them. Someone suggested Bradford pear, but my wife and I are allergic. Are there any other trees that we might plant that have a better chance of survival?

AnswerDefinitely not a Bradford pear—they can get 40 feet tall and 40 feet wide—way too large for this location. You have several options. The new trend in trees is to produce fastigiated forms—those that grow with a narrow growth habit. Fastigiated sweetgum, fastigiated hornbeam, English oak, and Autumn Spire red maple are just some choices that would work. These would get tall, provide shade, but would fit the situation with a narrow canopy. Smaller trees to choose would include redbud (they usually take full sun well), crape myrtle, and fringe tree.

(November 2011)

QuestionWe planted an Autumn Blaze maple tree to honor of the birth of our first granddaughter in October 2007. It is planted in full sun and did thrive for the first two years. Then, it simply died the third year. However, during the fourth year, about five or six suckers came up around the original tree. When should I choose the best of the suckers and cut back the others? One of these must make it, my granddaughter, now 4 years old, knows that this is "her" tree. It is so important to us that this little tree continue to thrive in spite of the death of the main tree.

AnswerIn the spring, when the tree begins to leaf out and you can assess the healthiness of the sprouts, then choose the strongest, straightest one, and prune all the others out. Make sure you keep it watered and mulched. If the tree was grafted, this could be a root sucker from beneath the graft union, but it will still be a red maple, it just may not be the named cultivar. Over the next few years, you may need to do some pruning to train it back into tree form.

(November 2010)

QuestionMy wife and I viewed the most beautiful red maple we've ever seen on the grounds of the big Heber Springs dam viewing area just off the highway over the dam. This was about a month ago. We asked dam employees and area nurseries about its varietal name but no one knew other than it was a maple. The tree is conical. The leaf coloration is not red. It was a more subdued light red, with a distinctive orange, perhaps light pinkish tone. The tree has been planted as a specimen tree and has no other trees near it. Could you please specify quite precisely what it is and where we might obtain these trees?

AnswerMy bet is that it is a common red maple, Acer rubrum. The maples this year have been glorious in their fall color. However, just because it is a red maple does not mean it will be red in the fall. Some varieties turn orange, yellow or a variety of shades of red. Some actually have little fall color. If you want to purchase a fall foliaged red maple for your yard you need to buy it in the fall when it is in its fall color. There are named cultivars such as 'Autumn Blaze', 'Autumn Flame' and 'October Glory' which are guaranteed to have fall color, but you can get some outstanding color from seedling maples, it just isn't a guarantee. Weather also plays a role, but if you buy a tree with good fall color, it should have it annually.

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