Guest Blog: Bill Spiewak is a consulting arborist and owner of Bill Spiewak and Associates, a small consulting practice. He is a Board Certified Master Arborist #310B though the International Society of Arboriculture and a Registered Consulting Arborist #381 through the American Society of Consulting Arborists.
Choosing the right tree for the right place is critical to avoiding long term problems. The first step is to clarify your basic objectives for your new tree: Are you looking for shade, fruit, color etc? Next, it’s important to seek out sound information about the trees you are considering. For example, you may love the flowers on a Crape Myrtle, but does it grow well in your area and the spot where you are thinking of planting it. Here are some tips to get you on the right path:
1) Determine the ultimate size and shape that fits your planting site. Trees come in different shapes; some are upright, some conical or some can be wide. A wide or spreading tree along a property line may encroach into the neighbor’s yard. A conical shape tree may conflict with the overhead utility wires. Look for several mature species in your area for comparisons. You’ll also want to allow enough space for it to reach its desire mature size. Will your tree fit your proposed planting location in 20 years?
2) Decide whether you desire an evergreen or deciduous tree (loses its leaves in the winter). Choosing to plant a deciduous tree with its mature canopy near the house, will allow for winter sun and summer shade at the selected site and can provide improved climate control for your home. Note where the sun moves across your property at different times of the year.
Deciduous trees allow the penetration of sunlight in the winter, but offer shade in the summer.
3) Consider the water needs for this tree? Is it compatible with other landscape features? For example, native oaks and some other species do not like year round irrigation. Too little water can kill a tree and too much water can likewise create fungus or disease. You will also want a plan on how you will water your tree. Young trees need to be watered about 5–10 gallons of water weekly, depending on weather conditions.
4) Consider leaf color, texture, shape, flowering and fruiting habit of the desired tree. All trees shed, however some species are messier than others. Leaf litter can provide needed mulch for your garden or can become a high maintenance nuisance depending on the situation.
If fall color is what you’re after, a deciduous tree that is size and climate appropriate for your location is the starting point.
5) Understand potential challenges for your new tree. Roots can be a problem in urban areas. Better to know in the start if growing roots could crack or lift your paving or hardscape materials and to either change species or use other solutions such as root barriers to reduce sidewalk issues.
In sum, do your homework, ask questions and look for tree species in your area that fit your needs and appear to be thriving. Starting early when you invest from the ground up will help you reap great value from your trees!