Autumn Disaster
There are many sci-fi novels where the protagonist’s 'mess' with Nature and the consequences are dire: monsters or murderous hominids are the typical outcomes. Far-fetched as those stories may be, selective breeding has led to some poor cultivars of trees that present us with a nightmarish future.

The future is here with the autumn blaze maple. A darling of the nursery industry, it seems like the public can’t plant them fast enough. Autumn blaze is a cross between a red maple (good fall color) and a silver maple (fast growing). Autumn Blaze does not exist in the wild, and propagation is restricted under its patent.

The autumn blaze maple has been sold based on its 'looks' or interest: fast growing, brilliant red fall color and the ability to grow in just about any soil. But the love affair does not last long. Soon this tree starts to reveal the monster within. They have the genetics for poor structure. Vigorous upright growth makes branches brittle and prone to failure.
Leaves are often covered with disfiguring maple gall mites, which look like the tree has a bad case of warts. And it’s practically suicidal, commonly forming stem girdling roots that can strangle and kill the tree. So just when the tree is big enough to start shading the landscape it reveals the telltale signs of stem girdling roots: premature fall color, sparse leaves and splits in the trunk. Folks, we are planting far too many autumn blaze maples…ad nauseam. A landscape dotted with the same tree is a boring monoculture that is susceptible to be wiped out when the next icky bug arrives from overseas. A few years ago, I felt frustration with the autumn blaze craze, and now I can safely say, without hesitation, that frustration has officially evolved into horror. 
A typical branch tear-out in an Autumn Blaze.
Autumn Blaze left unpruned are a mess, with a structure that can break in the slightest storm.
A little digging and girdling roots are revealed on an Autumn Blaze.
An Autumn Blaze with a terminal case of girdling roots foreground, looks vastly different from one that is normal behind it. 
An avenue of Autumn Blaze in an urban area - no thanks. Some cultivars make terrible urban trees in the long-term and perpetuating them as clones only passes on failure-prone trees to the next generation.
Be in the "Now" Landscaping
A Look at Current Trends
Like fur coats and skinny jeans, your landscaping choices will inevitably drift out of style. Even certain planting techniques are being abandoned by designers and landscape architecture gurus. Picture flowering annuals such as inpatients or geranium skirting rows of hydrangeas. This froufrou fantasy was popular as a status symbol but now is considered too resource-sucking today. 
Functional gardens are the way of the future. Edible plants, bushes and trees, including native plants, pollinators and medicinals are sprouting everywhere. Over the past years, visiting hundreds of gardens and talking to my peers, here is what we consider passe landscaping these days.
Dated: I would give all overt garden ornamentation like triple-tiered fountains, broken pots, metal butterflies, fanciful bird baths, globes and angel statues the heave-ho.
Up to Date: These days it’s much more chic to have a pared-back garden that embraces natural beauty. A single sculpture with a large scale and mass can make a striking juxtaposition against informal planting and foliage.
Dated: The Boston ivy crawling all over the house, trying to replicate that East Coast preppy look, makes a good rat hotel that can rot your siding. Ivy also creeps under siding and its little rootlets exploit and expand cracks in the mortar. Ivy also pushes out indigenous species and strangles trees.
Up to Date: Recreate the eye candy appeal of climbing vines with their less-grasping cousins, twining vines because they shimmy up supports like cables instead. Clematis and honeysuckle are all seasonally more interesting than ivy and won’t undermine the integrity of your wall.
Photo credit: Love to Know Garden
Dated: Red mulch in planting beds is a very unfortunate trend. The choice was born at Walt Disney World in the 1960’s and crept throughout suburbia from there. The hue is not really orange or red, just some bizarre in-between, like a bad dye job.
Up to Date: Chemical-free options that add nutrients to the soil, like shredded pine bark mulch. Shredded pine bark is made from the bark of pine, spruce, fir or other evergreens. Its natural brown color lasts longer than other mulches and it acidifies the soil, helping green up plants.
Dated: In the 1990’s, landscapers plopped and dropped boulders onto grounds to add dimension- and not surprisingly, the big stones sit there still. The problem is they aren’t authentic to the topography of the land.

Up to Date: I prefer to install equally substantive bushes with a similar scale such as alpine current, cotoneaster, yew or barberry. Quick growing shrubs can be trimmed to any scale.
Dated: A perfect carpet of classic grass. Conventional grass is too taxing on such resources as time, water and money. 
Up to date. Mowing whatever grows or devoting at least part of the yard to green alternatives like wild flowers, micro clover and short grass prairie. These support a more diverse fauna. Chemical fertilizers and weedkillers – no thanks.  
Cranberry Sauce
2 (12 oz) package fresh cranberries
1 ¾ cups dark brown sugar
1 cup red wine
½ cup water
3 tablespoons honey
4 slices fresh ginger, smashed
Pinch of kosher salt
½ tsp pepper
In a medium pot over medium heat, combine cranberries, sugar, red wine, ½ water, honey, ginger and salt. Simmer gently until most of the cranberries have popped and the sauce is thick and syrupy, 20-30 minutes. Stir in black pepper. Chill before serving.
Thanks for Reading
Happy Planting
and Happy Holidays!
Faith Appelquist
President & Founder