HOW TO CHOOSE A TREE

 

Since we know that fall is tree-planting time, that sort of begs the question — how do you choose the right tree for your landscape? That depends upon what you are hoping to achieve, because trees come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. As a landscape designer, when I am choosing a tree for a client, there is a list of questions I run through in my head to help me make the best choice.

Normally, the inside of my head is not where you would want to be, but in this case, it might be helpful. So before you head over to the garden center, answer these questions first.

 

Do I want shade for my house or my yard? If yes, then you will want a “shade tree” that grows to about 40’+ tall. Large trees like this have extensive root structures, though, so don’t plant them closer than 20′ from your home’s foundation or driveway.

Do I want year round interest? You do? Then look for a tree that has something to offer during the dormant months — interesting bark, berries, or evergreen leaves, for example. Spring interest can be bright green leaves and colorful flowers, summer may mean fully and glossy leaf coverage, and autumn can bring rusty harvest hues.

Do I want winter leaves? Many trees are “deciduous,” which means that they drop their leaves in the fall/winter. They are not “dead,” simply dormant. Then in the spring, bright new leaf growth will emerge. If you want leaves year round, look for a tree that is labeled “evergreen.”

Do I want fast growth? I know you want shade now, but I have to caution you here. Most times, when a tree grows rapidly (an Arizona Ash, for example), the wood is consequently weak. Weak wood topples, splits, and dies prematurely. So although I know some trees grow excruciatingly slow (live oaks will not mature in your lifetime), reach for trees that are “moderate” growers — not too slow, not too fast.

What size tree should I buy? That depends upon your goal for the tree and your budget. If the tree is a slow grower and you want it to shade your house before your grandchildren graduate from college, buy a large one (30-gallon size or larger). It’ll cost you, though, so be prepared. On the other hand, a small 10′ tall ornamental tree can be purchased in a 3-gallon or 5-gallon container — they will be small at maturity and won’t take long to get there, so buying something larger is a waste

 

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