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Plant Ginkgo Trees For Great Fall Color
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Despite unusually dry weather, the fall leaf color has been outstanding this year and one tree that has been showy from the North to the South is the ginkgo.
Many of you are probably more familiar with the herbal extracts believed to help your ah ... um ... mental concentration and even memory. Back in the '70s and '80s, it was fashionable to have jewelry made from gold-plated gingko leaves.
But the ginkgo is one landscape tree that holds the imagination and esteem like as does a Japanese maple or some weeping specimens. In the landscape, the Ginkgo biloba is one of our outstanding trees.
People tend to develop a relationship with the ginkgo as they grow it and see it every day. In talking to gardeners who have gingkos, that is how they feel about these statuesque specimens in the landscape.
Most people know this tree as an import from the Far East but almost no one knows that fossil records show it is native to North America. This fact points out that this species is as old as the hills.
The ginkgo has a unique pyramidal form and 45-degree branching. It is an exceptionally long-lived tree so your children's children will thank you for planting it. Insects or diseases are not known to be a problem with ginkgo trees.
For an ideal specimen, grow ginkgo in full sun in deep and well-drained soil. This tree is unique in that it is adaptable to a range of soil acidity levels.
This tree is loaded with other novel features. There are male and female trees. In Japan the seed is considered a delicacy. Here, the fruit and seed are considered most unwelcome as they make a mess and smell like rancid butter.
Stories are legendary of public buildings having specimens planted by the sidewalk where patrons would smash the fruit as they walked in. They tracked it on their shoes and the smell would overpower workers.
Guess what is on page 72 of one my reference books, Conifers for the Landscape. That's right, the ginkgo. The ginkgo is in the family called Ginkgoaceae and it has no brothers or sisters. This family is a single species.
Why grow this tree? The fall color is such a bright yellow it catches your eye from a great distance. It can be seen for miles against a backdrop of pines. When in fall color, people stop and take pictures of their kids under the tree. The yellow leaves fall quickly and cleanly, making a carpet of gold that is a picture in itself. The bark is also a handsome feature.
To keep your ginkgo growing vigorously, apply an 8-8-8 fertilizer in late winter at the rate of 1 pound per inch of trunk diameter. Broadcast evenly under the canopy of the tree.
When filming a recent Southern Gardening segment, I was impressed to find out that two of the ginkgo featured had become stately trees in 10 to 12 years, which is not long.
Remember when you pop your ginkgo tablets for your health you need to consider adding the ginkgo tree to your landscape, too. Autumn Gold, Saratoga and Shangri-La are just a few known for outstanding performance.