Autmun In Reno and Other Hilarities

(click all images to enlarge)



Back before the settlers moved in and the casinos exploded, Autumn in Reno, Nevada used to be a mix of the yellows of the local Cottonwood/Aspen, maybe the Willow population and a few bushes, generally willows, at that. Always a swampy area, Reno surfaced hard by the Truckee River by virtue of bringing in back fill and raising the town itself to its current level. The presence near the river distanced it from the desert which surrounded it, most particularly to the East. Needless to say, the mountain ranges a very few miles to the West, featuring Lake Tahoe and Donner Pass, determined that particular geography and that the flora there would give a few great-looking splashes of brilliant yellow Aspens in the crevices of the mountains, already mixed with a bazillion Pines. So, Reno has hardly been a deciduous “Autumn Spectacular” historically. It has been “passable” as a feature, said by the finicky landscaper.

Well, now people went and showed up. Now it is becoming something else entirely. On the dozens of projects I worked on in Reno, Fall Color became one of the most-desired elements. I guess what is most ironic about it all has been the discovery of what a lush variety of trees and shrubbery actually thrive there. Maples, Sweet Gums, Ashes – all sorts of bizarre and riotously-colored Fall trees have become popular and are in the process of determining a more than slightly interesting development into an amazing Fall series of breakout color. Needless to say, the incredibly popular Euonymus Elata – “Burning Bush” to the rest of us – also made a showing, among other Autumn glories.

BobbyMiller 088

There are always “caveats” to planting anything in Reno. Unremitting sunshine can literally “scald” tree  bark so many wise Reno-ites apply Latex or “Whitewash” to help with the lower barked areas of trees as a sort of “Sunscreen”. Dealing with bugs and fungi are also issues – always occurring for ‘introduced’ species anywhere, but, by and large, Maples, Sweet Gums and the rest are already real close to a natural adaptation. A bit of help with water and looking out for the ravages of Sun and they absolutely thrive.


My sister Diane, who teaches school in Reno and who also loves the photography of her own neighborhood’s small delights, sent me a raft of photos from this Fall’s Autumn display along with some more-than-interesting pictures from another realm of irony – the historical “Sequoia Love Fest” of Reno. She has moved into one of the older areas of Reno – a very-established neighborhood of immensely pleasing walking sights and sounds, peaceful and satisfyingly inhabited. Very treed-up, these are sights available which the newer areas of Ren0 – immense and now-sprawling – do not have. It was in Diane’s current much-enjoyed neighborhood where those real historical experimentation’s took place.

But first, her local Autumn color, beginning with what has to be a Norway Maple – to my mind, a very popular and healthy tree in the Reno climate:


Check out this gorgeous Red Oak, famous for its brilliant Fall color:


I love the deep purple of this Raywood Ash –


Ground covers are another under rated aspect of Fall color and I think she really captures this particular delight in this picture where we see a few remaining green leaves midst the severely altered Fall color:


Experimentation’s with architecture also happened! I love this little white home, shady as it is and so well-placed among the neighbors. Cosy and welcoming, it adds a personal and eccentric touch to the homes surrounding it.


Now to the “hilarity”, with a great “segue home” above.

No doubt while casting about for the right trees and plants to establish in Reno, there was some wild enthusiasm shown to Giant Sequoia’s. This happens to also be one of my very favorite species and they are incredibly handsome to look at as they develop, then tower over just pretty much everything in their march to Lord knows how high. Which is the point. At their height of development, who would not love looking outdoors and seeing this view?


Or this?


There is nothing that is NOT impressive about these gorgeous behemoths. These here are probably 60-80 years old and are already over 100 feet high. Perfectly balanced, unimpeded by competition, they show a breath-taking beauty of form and of power. They shade an entire street, easily and those soft-looking needles make quite a show during windy days. Very much the Gentle Giants, what do they look like down below? Did people literally plant these trees hoping for fast growth and as lawn ornaments? I fear the answer is a qualified “Yes”.


They do get large!



And they are pretty rough on pretty much anything that gets in their way. I suspect these large guys have found a water table in their march upwards- and downwards – and that it is more than a bit satisfying to them. Sequoia’s tend to root laterally in many cases, although they do root deeper than other trees – such as Cedars – which also thrive in creek bottoms and river flood plains. These particular trees have thrived beyond doubt, no doubt to the dismay of those watching their Imperialistic Ways march relentlessly on. They have also been very toughened up by the relentless Reno winds which prevail in Spring like nobody’s business, daily. I think it’s safe to say they are not going anywhere.


Once pampered, now “on their own”, these guys which were once beloved owing to their shape and foliage are now creeping into problematic areas, such as foundations, streets and sidewalks.

This is not uncommon anywhere, don’t think I am picking on some failure of projection for Reno people. All cities deal with specified plants which act other than was initially desired. Any look at power line work, angry cable installers, telephone personnel testifies to this – anywhere. But these are unique to me, in that they are such gorgeous and humongous specimens now. The implications of planting trees which grow far beyond what we planned is on display here – and nothing else. People love what they love and will work around their “mistakes”.

Even gorgeous Blue Spruces can crowd a guy a little bit!


I love the dilemma, don’t get me wrong. It’s always super to see people with love affairs for trees and plants, no matter how much soup they find themselves in.

Just the same, there are some plants who do better than thrive, if that’s possible. Pyracantha, for example, seem to have adopted Reno as the greatest place on Earth.


Cool stuff.


7 thoughts on “Autmun In Reno and Other Hilarities

  1. Oh my goodness, Steve! I was not prepared for the photos of trees eating houses! So majestic are these trees, my suggestion is to knock down the houses and move away, letting the trees rule! 🙂 I love, love what they love.


  2. LOL, Frances, I know. I guess it’s actually not hilarious, in the end. I bet whoever is there gives up.

  3. Frances, great description of those photos! I also enjoyed them, and the whole faux fall display. Quite spectacular I must admit and I love the sequoias best. I’d never known Reno was built on a swamp, that changes my picture of it. Is this urban natural history? You may be creating a new niche.

  4. Pomona, nice to see you. Urban Natural History has to be a common topic – I love talking about and touring cities and parks, looking at the fashions of plantings as they swept through. You can see it, you know? Currently,for example, heck, half of North America is going through a Grass Revival, lol. New hybrids every year, the Muhley’s and Miscanthus all over the place. I wager we have a Grass Decade, with shrub roses seconding. Let’s talk over the keyboard about it. Oh, wait – we are. Another thing – plants and trees eating houses is not a new theme for me. Any landscaper with a touch of history can talk about trees planted too close to homes, reluctant homeowners, fearful of losing a favored plant, etc, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.