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Slender Trees and Warty Pumpkins


AS WE ROLL INTO October there is a change in the air. We have finally reached the temperatures that make things change in our yard and in our spirits. The air is crisp because the humidity is lower and it seems like there’s less haze in the sky which always leads to that October sunburn. I imagine it must feel this way in parts of Colorado all summer long. With our nighttime temperatures getting into the 60s, it is much later in the day that it gets hot. By then the temperatures begin to drop again. That’s not all that’s dropping, at home we’ve been keeping our battery powered blower on the charger in order to keep up with the daily leaf fall. My dark green slender silhouette sweet gums are usually first to the dance. They drop gold leaves every day while the entire tree turns bright yellow. Slender silhouettes grow exactly like Italian cypress, tall and skinny. We lined our road leading to the barn with them planting evergreen arborvitaes between each one so that when the sweet gums have dropped their skirts we still have tall elliptical green all winter. It is a brave thing to do to line a driveway or road with one type of plant. If you lose one it’s really hard to find a replacement that will match the others size wise. We love the Italian cypress in a line look but they have proved to be too unreliable, just when you get 10 years of growth in a line one will just decide it’s time to go. Finding an Italian cypress that would match 10 years of growth is very hard to do. We are hoping that since sweetgums are native here they will be a safer bet. We are eight years into it and they are 35 feet tall and only 12 feet in circumference. 

THE PLANT BREEDERS are doing a lot of work in the elliptical growth habit world. I was walking around the campus at Mississippi State where they have done some great plantings. I noticed a slender tulip poplar, Emerald Green Arborvitaes, two types of columnar oaks, a columnar ginkgo that was stunning called gold Spier ginkgo, and my favorite, a crimson point flowering plum which we just got some in from Monrovia. The reason the breeders are doing so much work on the columnar trees is so someone with a yard not big enough for a full size tree can go vertical. The slender trees can be planted closer to a house or fence than a regular tree. There are plenty of choices for columnar trees that have been around a long time such as the blue arrow juniper, the skyrocket juniper, pencil point juniper. Lots of hollys grow in this shape with very little pruning and Japanese Yews can get very tall with relatively little width. It’s time to start shopping the garden centers as we are stocking up our tree fields for fall planting.  

YEARS AGO WE BEGAN to take an interest in the crazy world of ornamental gourds and pumpkins. We used to take an 18 wheeler up to the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina to fill up the truck with the craziest gourds we could find. Now that I’ve learned the names of the pumpkins I can call for what I need and have them trucked in. The produce stands and most of the garden centers have done a great job of keeping Mississippi in the garden pumpkin decorating world. Jack-o’-lanterns have taken a backseat to the interesting and beautiful different colored pumpkins. The high design magazines use them for interior and exterior fall decor. Some of the shapes and colors are quite exquisite, almost otherworldly or from the undersea coral world. Stacks of great contrasting colors of the pancake flat stackable pumpkins can be found. There is a red one called Cinderella fairytale, white ones, blue ones, and a buckskin flat pumpkin. There are giant, round white ones called Lumina and round blue pumpkins either smooth or warty. There are striped ones, snake shaped cords, birdhouse gourds, miniature pumpkins, warty wing gourds, all quite amazing in an appropriate display. 

I see a lot of people get three wheat straw bales, a mixture of pumpkins, some bundles of corn stocks and mums to create wonderful fall displays. The variety of pumpkins available now is more of a harvest celebration. Later in October with the addition of some good old fashion orange jack-o’-lanterns they can be transformed into a Halloween decoration. Most of the unusual colored pumpkins have thick rinds so if the weather remains coolish they can last until Thanksgiving for another look. A lot of families come in this time of year to get great photos of their kids and their dogs. We encourage photo takers to arrange the pumpkins in whatever way works to get that perfect photo, maybe even a Christmas card if the photo shoot doesn’t turn into a tear filled calamity of upset dads and crying children, I’ve seen a lot of that, too. I had my turn with that, I wish you luck. The good thing is that the produce stands and garden centers are outside and relatively safe places to shop as far as the COVID mess goes. Go spend some relax time at your favorite place and bring your pet and check out the totally different feel at Jackson’s garden centers as fall has taken over the displays. This is when we look our best.

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