Easiest fall cleanup award goes to the ginkgo

 

Over the years we’ve planted a lot of trees and we’ve had different reasons for each selection. But based on the yard work lately, we should have added “time of leaf drop” to our selection criteria. We’re cleaning up a lot of wet, heavy leaves, and there’s no end in sight.

Starting our garden, we wanted to install natives to encourage local birds, insects and other critters. A red oak, Freeman maple and sugar maple were planted the first year we lived in Port. Pagoda dogwoods and service berries soon joined them as an understory between the old spruces and new shrubs.

To screen the new front garden from the intersection to the east, a line of witch hazels went in. Bradford pears and magnolias gave privacy to the back yard along with a bunch of native shrubs. We added an extra spruce to the west property line, too.

A thornless hawthorn was installed for spring flowers, and various magnolias came later for the same reason. A half dozen Japanese maples and a dwarf ginkgo also found a home here. Various fruit trees, like apples, plums and pears, joined them.

With all the TLC they’ve gotten, these trees should be kind to us, and from the number of leaves we’ve collected so far, all of the branches should be bare. But fewer than half of the trees have shed their leaves, even with the heavy snow and wind. We considered a lot of characteristics before we selected each tree we planted, but leaf drop wasn’t one of them — and we’d be much happier right now if it had been.

Worst of the offenders are the Bradford pears and the oak. Both will hold their leaves well into winter. They’re planted right next to water features, so we’ll be cleaning falling leaves out of the pond skimmers most of the winter. Neither of them have any autumn color, so we look at depressing brown foliage remains for a long time.

The fruit trees aren’t much better. All of them still have leaves galore, and so do the witch hazels.

The magnolias, on the other hand, have dropped a lot of their foliage, but their thick leaves don’t decompose very quickly. They have to be raked up since they’ll rot any plants they cover.

More cooperative are the maples, which are completely bare. They’re huge trees now with massive canopies, but once their leaves are collected the mess is gone. The hawthorn also stands bare. The tree was supposed to supply food for the birds, and lots of hawthorns do hold their fruit into late winter. But our fussy avians have never touched the hawthorn fruit.

The absolute winner for the title of easiest tree for autumn clean-up is our gingko. It has gorgeous golden fall color, and it turns early. It glows beautifully for a week or so, then in what seems like a single day decides it’s done for the year and drops its leaves all at once.

We’re messy gardeners, so in the long run I enjoy all of our trees despite their inconsiderate habits. But for neatnik gardeners, I recommend planting a gingko. There’s not a prettier or neater tree. Take it from an old hand with a rake who’s tired of wrangling wet leaves.

 

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
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