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Shade trees small and large


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#1 Janet Macunovich

Janet Macunovich

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 11:31 AM

From our email, for your additional suggestions, please!

 

You spent the day with our garden group (New Neighbors Garden Club in Dayton) this summer and I thoroughly enjoyed the knowledge and tips you shared with us.

I’m writing to you to see if you could help my son choose the proper trees to plant in his yard.  He has some particular wants and I don’t know enough to advise him.

He lost a Bradford Pear in his front yard about a year ago.  He had it removed and the stump ground and now wants to replace it with these stipulations.  Be prepared to laugh because he is picky!  LOL!  He does realize, however, that all of these “wants” may not be possible.

Here is his criteria:

Tree for front yard:

·       Roots that do not surface

·       Doesn’t drop seeds in spring

·       Stronger than Bradford Pear

·       Doesn’t hold leaves unusually long in fall (Like Bradford Pear).  He would like to be finished mowing the yard by Thanksgiving and that means the leaves have to be down.

·       Great shade but appropriate size for small front yard (It’s about 21”x 27”)

·       Have a higher canopy or can be trimmed so it’s easy to mow under it without getting hit in the head (Our family is meticulous about mowing their yards.  Can you tell?)

·       Fall color would be nice

·       The front of the house faces east

 

Tree for backyard:

·       Roots that do not surface

·       Doesn’t drop seeds in spring

·       Stronger than Bradford Pear

·       Doesn’t hold leaves unusually long in fall (Like Bradford Pear).  He would like to be finished mowing the yard by Thanksgiving and that means the leaves have to be down.

·       Great shade but appropriate size for larger yard.  This area is quite spacious and he’s wanting shade for his patio.  This tree can be larger than front yard tree.

·       Have a higher canopy or can be trimmed so it’s easy to mow under it without getting hit in the head

·       Fall color would be nice

·       The back of the house faces west.

He is willing to pay some money to get a more mature tree but wants to be sure to choose the right one.  He would like to get it planted this fall. (Assuming that is the best time to do so.)

We would appreciate any and all suggestions you might have.  He lives here in the Dayton area.

Thanks so much for your time and assistance. - D.H.-



#2 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 04 September 2016 - 11:34 AM

We don't think your son is being picky. We wish more people would think through all they want from a tree before choosing! Even if it's not possible to have it all, finding the right tree is a lot more likely when you work from lists like these.

 

To get one thing out of the way right off, for front- and back yard tree and ALL trees: Tree roots do not surface. They grow where there is loose soil, and over time the permanent roots increase in diameter. If the roots can grow only in the top two inches of soil because the ground is terribly compacted, they grow there. Once a root achieves a size greater than two inches in diameter, it becomes apparent by breaking the surface -- but it has not changed depth.

 

Given loose soil, some tree species' roots tend to descend to greater depth before growing out level but a "shallow rooted" species' roots still drop down to 8 or 9 inches if the soil allows. "Deep rooted" species may go down only a few inches further.

 

So avoiding the roots-on-the-surface effect is not a function of tree type but of planting technique and continuing soil care. At planting time, loosen the soil to a depth of 18" all around the outer edge of the planted root package so roots can grow out at all levels. Make this loose ring at least as wide as the tree branches an grow in a year (6-12" for a slow-growing species, 12-18" for fast). Then, keep loosening in a larger circle every year -- tree care companies and DIY gardeners can do this by drilling holes 12-1" deep and then inserting an air compressor hose to "Blow up" the soil. You can see the surface bulge a bit as the air forces the soil to fracture. Everything in the area benefits, by the way -- trees, gardens, lawns.

 

For the front yard, consider:

Hedge maple, Acer campestre. a small maple, 30' tall and wide. Grows 8-12" per year. Like all the trees listed here, has a good form even when lower branches are removed, a process that should begin when the tree is young and low limbs are small, and continue until the lowest limb begins at 10-20' above ground. Gold to apricot fall color. Does have maple seeds.

Or

Threeflower maple (Acer triflorum). Another small maple, about 30' tall and wide, but slower than hedge maple. Lovely red-orange in fall, a bit later than other maples but not xo late as the callery pears including Bradford. Incredibly pretty peeling, shiny cinnamon color bark. We keep one elevated (lower limbs removed) for one client but never throw away the branches as there is always someone who wants to use them in an arrangement. Does have maple seeds.

Or

Since so many small trees have fruits that disqualify them from the list (Crabapples make excellent small shade trees but they fruit; redbuds have copious amounts of flat pea-pod-like seeds some years, etc.) we'd plant a large shrub that can be pruned to grow as a tree. First to mind is

seven son shrub, Heptacodium miconioides. No fall color to speak of but the September white fragrant flowers become tiny but visually mighty pink October seeds and the bark is white and exfoliating -- nice to look at in winter. The plant tends to be an ugly duckling as a youngster because of its gawky branching, but sorts itself out into a nice, high-branched 15-20' tree if pruned as it grows. As we look for photos to post on our Forum with these notes we'll look for B.G.'s tree, which was only 4' when planted but shades a patio just 6 years later. One drawback: Wood is not so strong as maple wood. We’ve seen some ice storm breakage.

 

 

 

For the back yard we'd look at:

A male ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Ginkgos grow quickly, up to 18" a year while they are young. (Claims that they are slow growing come from outer space; the growth slows once they mature and spend energy on flower and fruit*, but even then they grow moderately, not slowly.) They have a great spread and can be pruned as they grow to remove lower branches. The fall color is a very clear yellow but it's quick, even a lawn-raker's dream since all the leaves turn during one brief period, and fall quickly. (One year, we saw ginkgos turn gold one day and go completely bare the next. No lie.)

Given loose soil, the ginkgo's roots prefer to grow at an angle down until they reach 12-18" deep, then they grow level. So they are very garden-friendly. Ultimate size may top 70' but when we plant one we think in terms of the planting gardener's tenure and expect the tree to be 20' tall and 30'+ wide in 15-20 years. Very strong wood.

*Ginkgos don't fruit until 20+ years old and then only the females bear the apricot-sized yellow fruit. The males contribute wind-borne pollen; females in the vicinity of a male have fruit but no pollen a fact of importance to people with pollen allergies. To be sure you plant a male, fruitless variety read the label or catalog where males are identified by description and variety name 'Autumn Gold', 'Lakeview' etc.

.

Or

A lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia), which grows quickly, has a graceful wide spread, is easily limbed up for clearance, and drops only papery small seeds in spring and small leaves in fall. The bark is very pretty, especially in winter. Fall color is not one of its attributes. Strong wood, very resilient under the weight of snow and ice.

Or

One of the hybrid red-silver maples, perhaps a male (seedless) variety such as 'Autumn Blaze.' Has the red fall color an relatively strong wood of the red maple but has a faster growth rate thanks to its silver maple  genes.

Or

Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) Fast growing, nice gold in fall accompanied by a smell of cinnamon/cloves from the leaves as they change. Would be branched to the ground if allowed so remove lower branches. Do not buy a multi-stemmed specimen as single stem trees grow more quickly up and do not later have trouble with competition between its own trunks.






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