To Tree or Not to Tree – A Lesson in Variety

Whether you plan to replace a tree or just add curb appeal, it all starts with the right selection.

By Beth Kornegay

 

A tree can live to be over 100 years old. Planting the right variety, size, color, and texture is a decision you may have to live with… for a while.

 

But what better than a tree to spruce up your landscaping, while also contributing to clean air for humans and wildlife? There is good reason why trees are the star of backyard landscaping.

 

How large is your space?

Are you interested in planting a small tree near your front door or on the corner of your house? If so, you may want to consider a dwarf-type tree such as a Japanese maple, which generally stays smaller than 15 feet tall. The colors of the Japanese maple include red, purple, and bright green cascading leaves.

 

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Shaped topiary trees also work well in small spaces and require little upkeep once the shaping process is complete. Topiaries can either be grown in planters such as urns or placed directly into the ground.

 

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If you are looking to create a tree centerpiece in your yard, choosing a tree that will keep a beautiful shape with little pruning required is a good choice. Pin Oaks are hardy trees, which    generally resist disease, provide plenty of shade, and require very little care. They keep their leaves in the fall and through the winter and only shed leaves when the new ones begin to grow in the spring. They are known for their straight trunks and soaring heights. Maples have a colorful display of foliage in the fall and tend to have sprawling limbs. In time, they can easily take over a yard.

 

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Things to watch for

Local garden centers offer a good variety of trees with experts to give advice about growing tips and pests that may have recently invaded the area. Whatever size tree you purchase, thoroughly examine it. Do you see any bugs or small eggs on the leaves? Are there any gouges or scars on the trunk? Are the limbs sturdy with plenty of buds or healthy leaves?

 

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Because you are making a long-term commitment when purchasing a tree, it is important that the main trunk is centered and does not split into two upright limbs. The larger the tree grows, the more likely it is to end up splitting during a wind storm. A strong center trunk will help the tree grow straight and remain strong for years to come.

 

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Fruit trees

While not all fruit trees produce fruit, they do produce beautiful fragrant flowers in the spring. In the Midwest, Bradford Pear trees are very popular in landscaping because they grow fairly quickly and are loaded with ornamental white flowers each spring.

 

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The downfall of those Bradford Pears is they are very susceptible to wind damage. Bred to be sterile and primarily ornamental, the Bradford Pears have small fruit, less than one inch in diameter that birds and squirrels tend to eat.

 

Crabapple trees also follow those same traits – a plethora of beautiful spring flowers, small fruit, and branches that are easily broken by strong winds or ice. The fruit of the crabapple tree is also small and sometimes used in homemade jams and jellies.

 

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Trees that do produce fruit such as apple, peach, and cherry, generally require between three and six years to bear results. It may take between five and eight years for a tree to produce at least a bushel of fruit in a growing season.

 

No matter what type of tree you introduce to your landscaping, it will take nurturing especially when it is newly planted.

 

Besides regular watering, new trees also need nutrients that may or may not already be in your soil. Have the soil tested before planting a tree and discuss with your local nursery any extra tree food your new addition may require to thrive and become healthy.

 

Images used with permission, courtesy of Beth Kornegay and www.shutterstock.com

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