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Choose & Grow Deciduous Trees

Choose & Grow Deciduous Trees

Trees are immensely important in landscaping. They add beauty and a sense of structure to any space. Not to mention that environmentally they are essential to our survival. Trees moderate climate by cooling in summer (deflecting sun and heat) and warming in winter (deflecting wind), thereby reducing energy costs. They improve air quality by removing dust and other particulates from the air. The leaves absorb harmful carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulphur dioxide and give off huge amounts of life-giving oxygen. Trees also absorb sound and provide shelter to birds and other wildlife. Their size provides privacy wherever it’s required.

How to Choose a Tree

  • Know how tall and wide a tree will grow before purchasing.

A red oak (Quercus rubra) that matures to a height of 18 m (60′)and a width of 15 m (50′) may not be appropriate on a lot that’s only 12 m (40′) wide.

Planting a tree too close to a structure or overhead wires will cause problems.

  • The existing soil condition is another consideration.

Some trees like Catalpa, and Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) are more tolerant of clay soils.

Honey-locust (Gleditsia) and Russian Olive (Elaeagnus), on the other hand, handle dry or poor soil.

Pin oak (Quercus palustris) and Hackberry (Celtis) tolerate moist conditions.

  • Trees that flower add a special feature.

The early flowers of a magnolia are a sure sign spring has arrived.

horse chestnut tree

The large blooms of a Horse-Chestnut (Aesculus) are very impressive in late May.

Remember that flowers can lead to fruit or nuts that drop so plant this type of tree away from sidewalks, walkways, driveways, and swimming pools.

  • Foliage colour, especially autumn colour, can also be eye-catching and provide contrast.

Deep Purple: Shubert Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana ‘Shubert’).

Creamy white and green leaves: Harlequin Maple (Acer platanoides ‘Drummondii’).

Fiery red in autumn: our native Red Maple (Acer rubrum).

Golden-yellow: Serviceberry.

  • The form of a tree can also make a visual impact. Any plant with a weeping shape becomes a living piece of sculpture and a focal point.

For a house that’s very tall, a narrow, columnar tree such as a pyramidal English Oak, Glenleven Linden (Tilia cordata ‘Glenleven’) (Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’) or Columnar Siberian Crab Apple (Malus baccata ‘Columnaris’) would be in proportion.

For a large property, the pyramidal shape of some Lindens (Tilia) would contrast well with the roundness of a Crimson King Maple (Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King’) or the asymmetrical branching of a Honey-Locust (Gleditsia).

linden tree

• Finally, some trees are available as a single trunk or multi-stem. Clump Birch (Betula) is a favourite specimen because there’s so much more white bark to appreciate when there are 3 or 4 trunks.

Large Shade Trees

  • Where you have room and require shade and/or privacy, trees such as Beech (Fagus), Birch (Betula), Honey-locust (Gleditsia), Linden (Tilia), Maple (Acer), Mountainash (Sorbus), Oak (Quercus), and Tulip Tree (Liriodendrontulipifera) are good choices.
  • London Plane Tree (Platanus acerifolia ‘Bloodgood’) grows very large and is almost as wide as it is tall. It’s noteworthy too for its multi-colour, “camouflage” bark and its pollution tolerance.
  • One of the slowest growing trees and also one of the oldest on earth is the Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba). Its fan-shaped leaves turn yellow in fall and are unique. Another advantage is its resistance to insects, disease, and pollution.

Medium-Sized Trees

This group is perfect for urban and suburban lots where space is limited.

  • Magnolia, Ornamental Pear (Pyrus), Kwanzan Japanese Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’), and Crab Apple (Malus) all flower superbly in spring.
Japanese cherry

Japanese Cherry

  • Following the above is the Flowering Dogwoods (Cornus florida and Cornus kousa), Golden Chain tree (Laburnumx watereri ‘Vossii’), Hawthorn (Crataegus), and Ivory Silk Japanese Lilac tree (Syringa reticulate ‘Ivory Silk’).
  • Two trees that deserve a lot more attention are Hornbeam (Carpinus) and Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum).

Small Standard Trees

For foundation plantings and mixed borders, when a shorter ornamental tree around 175 cm (6′) tall would add just the right vertical note, consider such flowering standard trees

  • Flowering Almond (Prunus triloba ‘Multiplex’), Purpleleaf Sand Cherry (Prunus cistena), Pee Gee Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’), Dwarf Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’), Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), Fragrant Snowball (Viburnum carlcephalum), and Bristol Ruby Weigela (Weigela florida ‘Bristol Ruby’).
  • Weeping forms like Weeping Mulberry (Morus alba ‘Pendula’), Red Jade Crab Apple (Malus ‘Red Jade’), Weeping Peashrub (Caragana arborescens ‘Pendula’) or Weeping Kiku-Shidare Japanese Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Kiku- Shidare’) also make interesting specimens.
  • For colour contrast and winter evergreen interest Emerald Gaiety and Gold Tip Euonymus standards (Euonymusfortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ and ‘Gold Tip’) are excellent.

Tree Care

Once you’ve selected a tree that’s right for your conditions, follow the planting instructions.

  • Keep turf at least 30 cm (1′) away from the trunk(s) at all times to prevent any damage to the bark by lawn mowers or string trimmers.
  • Spread 5-10 cm (2-4″) of mulch over the root zone to help prevent weeds, minimize moisture loss, and keep roots cool.
  • Water the young tree well and deeply for the first 2 years to get it established.
  • Prune dead, broken, or diseased branches at anytime. Other pruning is generally done in summer when tree sap isn’t flowing to any extent.
  • Fertilizer spikes for trees can be driven into the ground at the drip line in spring to provide slow release nutrients for the whole year. Repeat every spring.
  • At any time, if your tree doesn’t look quite right, look carefully for insects or disease. When in doubt bring sample leaves or a twig to our garden centre for analysis and advice.

A tree can last decades or, in the case of oaks, centuries. It not only enhances the beauty of any garden, it’s essential to human health. The environment needs healthy trees. Give them the care and respect they deserve.