Trees with dark purple leaves could be plum, ash - Albuquerque Journal

Trees with dark purple leaves could be plum, ash

Q: You taught us recently about the trees that you think are ornamental pears that are so colorful now. I’m curious about the trees that are a dark plum color now. Some are sort of short and there are others that are a lot taller. Any clues as to what these trees might be? – S.C., Albuquerque

Tracey FitzgibbonA: The two most planted trees in this area that fit that description would be the purple leaf plum, or ornamental plum, and the Raywood ash.

The ornamental plum is best known for the bloom it offers in the spring. These not-so-big-by- nature trees are suddenly awash with apple blossom-shaped, white-pink tinged flowers that cover the trees.

The foliage they wear throughout the growing season starts out as a nifty red-copper color that matures to a good, dark purple-red color. Now that the trees have gotten ready to drop the leaves, they are a darker, more chocolate-purple color. Soon the trees will be naked offering a good look at the dark grey-black color of the trunk, limbs and branches.

Hardly noticeable, the trees do offer yet another visual interest here during the dormant months. While they are “naked,” you can better see branches and limbs that you might want to prune back, too. Now’s not the time to do any big pruning, but you’ll have an uncluttered view of the tree structure, planting the seed in your mind of what’s got to go later.

The other tree I believe is the Raywood ash. These trees seem to me to have a more pyramidal-shaped crown and are fairly easy to grow in this area.

They are tolerant of the naturally alkaline-based soil we’re known for here. Now, that’s not saying they are considered xeric, they do best with water so they maintain good, proper health.

The Raywood’s color, like the ornamental plum, is rather a sharp bronze-y red in the spring. The leaves soon mature and the color advances to a darker purple-red that is worn all growing season long. As the season ends, the color changes once again to a deeper chocolate-purple color that adds to the marvelous color changes we get to enjoy this time of year. There is nothing vivid about the colors worn by either of these trees, but they do offer so much color to our visual palette annually.

If you are thinking of planting – and you could find the perfect specimen available – now would be a great time to get one planted. With proper over-winter care, the trees would be well-settled in and far more ahead of the game next spring.

So there you go, I believe it’s either one, or maybe both trees, that you are taking the time to notice now. Keep on admiring, since the color offered by all will soon fade and blow away.

Q: I went ahead and planted a big pot of pansies a couple of weeks ago and now they look weak and what you would call puny. What am I doing wrong? – W.V., Albuquerque

A: I have so many questions for you.

First, does the pot drain? If not, and you’re watering it faithfully, the pansies could very well be drowning. Make sure the pot drains.

Are you watering enough to keep the soil damp? Not soggy wet, but dampened for sure. How much sun is the planting offered daily? A healthy planting of pansies will want, at a minimum, 6 hours of sun a day in order to look and perform their best. If the spot they live in is too dark or doesn’t get enough sunlight, they will look puny.

I’m curious if the soil in the pot was “used” or was it fresh? Either way, you could offer a fertilization that is higher in phosphorus so they are encouraged to create and maintain a healthy root system.

In late December, as long as they are still around, consider another fertilization that offers more nitrogen in its mix to help keep the pansies warmer naturally.

I can’t offer more than that except, pansies are pretty fool-proof as long as they get a good dose of sunshine daily and aren’t kept too wet.

I hope you can figure out what’s up so you’ll have the pot of cheery color until the spring.

Happy 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


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