Conditions shaping up for good fall colors, say horticulturalists

10/11/2012 5:16 PM

10/11/2012 5:17 PM

The good thing about fall color is that it’s not dependent on the weather conditions of only one season to develop beautifully.

Fortunately for us, the ravages of the hot summer don’t necessarily mean our trees won’t soon be adorned in jewel tones – unless, of course, the trees don’t have any leaves, or the leaves are scorched.

“If your trees survived and still have leaves on them, we should have pretty good fall color,” Jason Griffin, director of the John C. Pair Horticultural Research Station in Haysville, said Thursday.

Kansas City, which has cooler weather, already is in the thick of fall color. And Wichita’s ash, Chinese pistache and maple trees are starting to turn.

“Fall color is triggered by cool nights and warm sunny days, and we’re starting to get that,” Griffin said. “Reds are looking good, and purples are looking good, and yellow is looking all right.

“The sad part is I see a lot of trees without any leaves on them.”

If you would like to replace dead trees with ones that have good fall color, this is the time to shop for them, when you can see the color in evidence at garden centers.

It’s also a good idea to check surviving trees for any diseases, insects or other damage done over the rough summer, Griffin said. Look for sunscald and cankers on the trunk, for example. And water trees if we don’t get enough soaking rain.

“Make sure they don’t go into winter dry,” Griffin said.

Conditions that will lessen fall color now are cloudy days and warm nights. Wichita’s forecast looks “decent” for fall color, said Robb Lawson of the National Weather Service. There are a couple of bumps ahead: potential severe weather Saturday, and daytime temperatures a bit above normal. But nights look cool, and daytime temperatures should return to normal levels soon, Lawson said.

On the cold end of the weather, reds, yellows and oranges are short-lived when trees undergo frosts and freezes, horticulturist Ward Upham of Kansas State University said.

And no matter the weather leading up, there seems to be one fateful day at the height of every colorful fall when rain and wind conspire to send all the leaves skittering on their way.

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