Ginkgo trees are beautiful in autumn

Beautiful yellow leaves make ginkgo trees an excellent choice for autumn landscaping.

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    These ginkgo trees have turned to a brilliant fall yellow.
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It’s one of those blue-sky days in Virginia, rare and exquisite - a perfect day to check on the ginkgo grove at the State Arboretum of Virginia at Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce.

For weeks, I have swung by there, watching the slow departure of chlorophyll from the leaves of the ginkgo trees. While not so noticeable at other times of the year, the autumn show is spectacular.

Ginkgoes are among the most beautiful trees for the landscape. The leaf shapes are lovely, and they grow very well in my climate. They don’t attract diseases or pests and have the handy habit of dropping their leaves almost all at once.

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Some of the forms, such as Princeton Sentry, are large shade trees while distinctly upright. Others, like Jade Butterflies, are dwarfs, getting only 12 feet tall in 10 years, perfect for most one-story homes.

Most folks select male ginkgoes for their landscapes, since female ginkgoes develop nuts with a fleshy outer covering that is pretty stinky. One year when I was a docent at Blandy, we went out and collected these fruit for a demonstration by Asian experts. It didn’t seem like an appealing food to me, but it's treasured by some.

I wish I had remembered that event earlier in the day. My dog Lucy needed a good walk, so she came along as I took photos, and she found it delightful to roll in the stinky, fleshy coverings of the fallen ginkgo nuts. Of course she did. Dogs love to roll in stinky things that smell perfectly awful. She was so proud!

The ride home was breezy with all the windows open.

Of course, I won’t remember this next year when I am watching to see the ginkgoes go yellow.

Instead, I will think, What a great day to take the dog to the arboretum for a walk. There won't be  a thought in my head except, With a blue sky like this, the ginkgoes must be fabulous. And they will be.

Donna Williamson is a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.”  She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Editor’s note: To read more by Donna, check our blog archive. For other Monitor gardening content, see our main gardening page and our RSS feed.

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