To help decide which tree to plant, first ask yourself why you want a tree. Do you want fruit; summer foliage to shade the house; bare branches in winter to let in more sun; a focal point; to add some colorful blooms above your head; to attract birds and other wildlife; or to hide the neighbor’s house?
Be careful when choosing a tree only because it’s your favorite and you simply ‘have to have it.’ Many gardens today are simply too small for the mature size of some trees, such as Sequoia sempervirens (Redwood), Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo), Liquidambar (Sweet gum), or Magnolia grandiflora, as well as many others.
When the description of a tree says, ‘fast growing’ or something similar, be aware that fast growing trees may fill in quickly but they also tend to have weak branches that can snap in the wind. This does not necessarily mean ‘never’ plant a fast growing tree, it means that formative pruning while the tree is young, as well as keeping the tree in good form when mature, will be extra important.
Formative pruning (shaping) is important for all trees, especially those trees that have narrow crotches (branching that grows more parallel to the trunk or other branches creating a tight angle where the branch begins). Branches with narrow crotches can grow together (known as ‘inclusion’) and lead to problems in the future. Included branches can tear apart and leave a shredded open wound on your tree.
In years past, when digging the planting hole, gardeners would dig the deepest hole they could in which to plant their tree. Today, horticulture science knows better and we disturb the soil only as deep as the soil level of the tree in the container (or less if the soil is poor draining). We also know today to disturb the soil two to three times as wide as the width of the rootball in the container so that the new roots have an easier time getting established. Also in the past, gardeners added copious amounts of amendment into the planting hole. Now, we know to only add a small amount of amendment (especially if the soil is really poor) or no amendment at all in the planting hole so that the new roots grow into the native soil instead of staying in a highly amended small area. After planting, apply a 3 to 5 inch layer of mulch around your tree making the mulch layer thin as it gets within 6 inches of the trunk.
Many trees come from the nursery with a stake that is tied right up on the trunk. When you get your tree home and are ready to plant it, replace that nursery stake with a sturdy stake placed about 6 to 12 inches from the trunk. Use a tree tie and make certain to cross the tie between the tree and the stake (this allows the tree to move a bit in the wind which will strengthen the trunk). In high wind areas you may need a tripod of three stakes and in no wind areas you may be able to plant your tree without any stake at all. If, when the original stake is removed the main stem is floppy, you may need to keep the original stake on for a bit longer. Check the main stem often to see when it's time to remove the original stake and use the stakes farther out.
Remember to consider the mature size of the trunk and canopy of your tree when deciding the placement of your tree next to your house, other buildings or fences.
There is more to know about planting trees, shrubs and other plants. Contact Mary today to schedule your consultation appointment.