Ornamental pear might be your autumn show-stopper - Albuquerque Journal

Ornamental pear might be your autumn show-stopper

Q. I am wondering if you can help me figure out what type of tree it might be that I’m noticing a lot lately. They aren’t too big in size, but they are covered with marvelous autumn color. Mostly in the orange-red shades but so pretty. Any clue? – A.C., Albuquerque

Tracey FitzgibbonDo you remember seeing them wearing gobs of small white flowers in the spring? If you can remember seeing that, then I’m confident you’re noticing an ornamental pear and you’re right, most are ablaze with color right now.

I think a lot of the remarkable coloration we’re seeing now has to do with the gradual cooling we’ve experienced. The trees were more able to calm down with more ease, so they are giving it their all with this last blast of color.

The variety named redspire is more known to offer the yellow-to-red foliage color. The varieties Bradford or aristocrat usually color more into the darker red-burgundy spectrum of fall color. This tree is very multi-talented, so if you’re looking for seasonal color, the ornamental pear might be just the ticket.

Ornamental pear offer brilliant, smallish apple blossom-shaped white blooms in clusters all over the tree just as it’s throwing out its leaves. The ornamentals tend to flower a bit later in the spring, so they are less likely to get frostbitten.

The leaves are a sturdy, broad, oval shape and seem to be very able to deal with the spring wind without getting all torn up. They are what I call a good green color too.

Then comes autumn, with the daylight lessening and the temperatures cooling – especially if it’s a gradual cooling – you are rewarded with lots of marvelous fall color.

They are fairly pest-free but can suffer from a malady called fire blight. I’ve not seen it happen often in this clime, but it can happen.

Also, ornamental pear is not considered a xeric plant. They will perform best if watered consistently during the growing season. I’m pretty confident that the trees you are seeing could very well be ornamental pears. Continue to enjoy all the color they offer now.

By being planted now, seeds that need and perform better for having dealt with a winter in the ground, have a more natural head start than if they are planted in the spring.

The list in the book “Down to Earth” does offer a grand list of plants best planted just at the end of autumn, so they’ll be offered the freezes and hopefully some snow, (and if not, an occasional watering from you) so those tough seed coats get softened allowing the seeds to germinate.

I understand that it does sound counterintuitive, but for a lot of plants, they need that quiet time in the earth to do their thing. I do want to caution you though, not every seed can and would survive cold stratification. Don’t rush out and plant warmth lovers like your melons, beans and tomatoes, or you’ll suffer nothing but heartbreak.

With a bit of poking about on the internet, see if you can find a more inclusive list of plants that do best with and need a cold stratification and you’ll get to plant to your heart’s content.

Have fun Diggin’ In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to features@abqjournal.com.


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