Countryside Corner; Neighborly Garden News
Benefits of planting native shade trees
Wasn’t it hot this summer? One way to help beat the heat and cool your home is by planting shade producing trees in strategic areas. I have 2 leafy Maples that shade the west side of my house, and it is always 10 degrees cooler inside during the summer. Planting a tree can be one of life’s great pleasures; marking the years as it spreads and grows. Planting an attractive tree can increase the value of your property, and benefit your community. Native trees are more likely to thrive in your local conditions with minimal care after the first few years of establishment. They will also provide the necessary food and shelter for regional wildlife that exotic trees often can’t.
If you’re thinking of planting a new tree, consider that hundreds of varieties of ornamental trees are ones that have evolved here in North America. These natives have survived and thrived for thousands of years during extreme climatic conditions. Most have learned to cope with our local pests and diseases, and are still here to prove their ability to adapt.
‘Sugar Maple’, Acer saccharum, is the most recognized tree for fall color in the northeast. It is a sturdy, long-lived, and very desirable tree. Did you know that the ‘Red Maple’, Acer rubrum, grows from northern New England all the way to south Florida? It’s pretty amazing considering the drastically different climates. Within each genus of trees it is possible to find one suited for your growing conditions.
Oaks, Quercus spp, are considered the national tree of the United States. It is said we plant an Oak for our children to enjoy, but the ‘Chinkapin Oak’, Quercus muehlenbergii, for instance, is relatively fast growing; will grow 20’ in 10 years. Of the 100 species of oaks in the US and Canada, there is great diversity within this genus. The ‘Scarlet Oak’, Quercus coccinea, turns a vivid red in the fall, and would rival the showiest Maple; the leaves can persist for up to 4 weeks. Quercus bicolor, ‘Swamp White Oak’ prefers moist acid soil, like in a bog, very worthwhile for naturalizing in wet areas. Planting an Oak will invite a host of wildlife to your yard, as they are an indispensable source of food.
Our native Birch trees, Betula spp, are graceful and fast growing shade trees. They are considered hardier to the stresses of our climate than imported Birches. Many Birches are tolerant of wet soils, The ‘River Birch’, Betula nigra, actually prefers it. They are valued for their interesting bark color and textures, as well as their attractive fall leaf color. So many people admire the ‘Paper Birch’, Betula papyrifera for its chalk-white bark, and graceful shimmering leaves. It has a reputation for being difficult to transplant; but in reality it is just not adaptable to less than perfect soil. It wants the rare combination of well-drained, yet deep and moist soil. It does not adapt to hot and dry conditions. When the plant gets stressed, it becomes highly susceptible to insect infestation due to its weakened condition. Decline of the tree, and death of branches can take months or years, and it is sad to watch. Consult your Countryside Landscape Professional for help in choosing the right native tree for your yard.
When is it time for tree removal?
Tree removal is recommended with a tree that is dead or dying, and is a hazard, especially when it threatens your home, outer buildings, or power lines. It is best to be proactive now, while trees are accessible, as opposed to being surrounded in several feet of snow, or worst yet, in an emergency when one falls on your home.
At Countryside Landscape & Design, our arborists can help you decide if a tree should be removed; and our forestry crew has the skill and equipment to safely remove those threatening trees.
September’s ‘to-do’ list:
Keep up with watering recently planted (within the past 3 years) trees and shrubs. It is important to provide additional water before we head into winter to hydrate the plant tissues. Evergreens; both needled and broad-leaved types, are susceptible to winter injury from desiccation over the winter. Don’t worry if you see some browning of needles, and leaves on evergreens. This is the normal cyclical shedding of the older and innermost needles, and leaves of these plants.
Continue to prune out dead, damaged, or diseased wood, from your trees, shrubs and roses. Resist performing a hard pruning now; it’s getting late in the growing season for new growth to harden off before freezing weather. Some plants may benefit from a fall fertilizer application; as the roots continue to grow, and store food, even as the leaves drop. Countryside recommends and offers a ‘deep feed’ application which is specifically designed for established trees and shrubs.
After a summer of heavy storms it’s important to assess the soundness and stability of trees on your property. Pruning or cabling a risky branch ahead of time will save you from major problems in the future.
Take advantage of the season, and plant that tree or shrub you’ve been hankering for. Our soil conditions are just about perfect now, to plant woody plants. They only need to concentrate on growing roots, and no energy is wasted in pushing forth leaves. Countryside recommends and offers ‘Root Pusher’, an application for newly planted trees and shrubs; as it promotes root growth, which is ideal to aid the plant as it prepares for winter.
Get a handle on next year’s weeds now! Some of the worst offenders set seeds and propagate in the fall. Ragweed, the main culprit during allergy season, sets millions of dust like seeds that can remain dormant in the soil for decades! Goldenrod has been found to not be the offender for allergies as we once thought it was. Some species of Goldenrod are grown as ornamental perennials. During late fall you may notice many bees and wasps congregating on Goldenrod flowers, it is an essential source of pollen and nectar after many other flowering plants have faded.
Save your summer flowering bulbs by storing them overwinter until next spring. Lift the tubers or bulbs before the first frost knocks then down, and prepare them for storage by allowing them to dry for a week or two in a dry and shady location. Dahlias and tuberous Begonias don’t like to completely dry out, so they will need to be in slightly damp peat-moss over winter. Gladiola and cannas may be stored in mesh bags (used onion bags) so they maintain good air circulation, to prevent them rotting through our long winters.
Don’t delay, order your spring bulbs now, and plan to plant them as soon as they arrive. Planting spring bulbs is a fun and easy activity to do with kids or seniors. Most bulbs are good sized and easy to handle, and don’t require a formal layout. Many gardening guides suggest you casually toss the bulbs in groupings; and just plant them where they land for a natural look. Sunny, well drained areas work best for most bulbs. It’s very cheerful; seeing the shoots sprout and bloom, when everything else is bare.
Pruning is essential for plant health
What makes a pleasing landscape to you? In the past we landscaped our homes primarily for outward appeal. Now we are knowledgeable about the concept of ‘outdoor rooms’, and plan for outdoor spaces as extensions of our home environment. My opinion is that it’s not all about having the most exclusive plants. I think a beautiful yard is largely about upkeep and maintenance, and the simplest plants will look outstanding when well cared for. This is a new idea for some people, but landscape trees and shrubs don’t thrive while growing unattended. You wouldn’t allow your pets to fend for themselves; forage for food, and take dust baths to keep away pests. Like pets, our landscape plants require nurturing and training to grow to their best potential. Our pets are dependent on us for their food, water and shelter, and similarly are our landscape plants.
A newly planted tree doesn’t need much care other than regular watering, and a dose of fertilizer formulated for root development. No training is required for the first year or so, as it is setting down new structural and feeder roots. The second or third year would be the time to start pruning the tree to accentuate its form. The type of pruning it had received while growing in the nursery environment was to facilitate working around the tree farm. Allowing access to mow between rows, and apply fertilizer, etc. The next phase of pruning would be to accentuate the main scaffolding branches of the canopy, and remove any branches growing inwards or at acute angles. If you do the major structural pruning while the tree is young, these wounds will heal and be unnoticeable as the tree matures. Waiting until a mature tree starts interfering with a structure to remove limbs will result in a large wound that takes longer to heal and will remain visible.
Another form of pruning is called shearing. This is used on both formal and informal hedges. Formal hedges usually have smaller leaves and are sheared to form a smooth and even surface, creating a ‘wall of green’. Informal hedges are more loose and irregular in shape, and may have larger leaves. Often they are chosen for their flowers and fruit. You should be sensitive to the timing of the pruning; to late or too early will rob you of blooms for the season. Pruning evergreens too late and cutting into ‘old wood’ may result in a bare patch as these new shoots will be susceptible to the cold.
Fast growing shrubs might need more than one pruning per season to help slow their growth. Hemlocks are a good example of a fast growing tree that is often sheared into a hedge. Without regular pruning it has the potential to be 40’ tall tree. Maintaining your tree is an important consideration when choosing what to plant. The immediacy of having a full grown tree or shrub, will soon be outweighed it if becomes unruly and outgrows its space.
Thinking of spring 2019 seems a long way off, but spring blooming bulbs need to be planted months ahead of their actual bloom time. Daffodils have so many variations of color and form; I don’t think you could ever grow tired of them, and all varieties of daffodil are naturally deer and rodent proof. We don’t have too many problems with hungry deer in Deerfield, but the voles are voracious! Many varieties of spring flowering bulbs are deer and rodent proof, and most are very easy to plant. Rule of thumb for planting depth is: 3X the width of the bulb=correct depth of the planting hole.
Allium Schubertii, is an ornamental onion; creates an explosion of lavender colored fireworks! Alliums bloom in early summer, and are very cold hardy. Schubertii bulbs grow to 18” tall, and need full sun, and good drainage. Deer resistant.
Daffodil Brackenhurst has an eye catching fiery orange trumpet that contrasts beautifully with the sunny yellow corolla. Brackenhurst is an early season bloomer, and grows to 16” tall. Daffodils are in the amaryllis family, and are naturally deer proof. Members of the amaryllis family contain a bitter substance called Lycorine, which no mammals will eat.
Galanthus nivalis is the prolific snowdrop. These hardy bulbs are also in the amaryllis family, so are also deer and rodent proof. Snowdrops reproduce abundantly, and you will soon have drifts of them in your garden. They will grow in sun or part shade, particularly attractive as a groundcover under deciduous trees. Snowdrops grows 6-8” tall, and you should space them 16 bulbs per square ft.
Daffodil Avalon is not your typical daffodil. Its coloring is called a ‘reverse bi-color’, having flowers that are yellow with a white cup or trumpet, rather than the other way around. This early season bloomer will grow to 16” tall. Naturally deer proof.
Leucojum vernum is the giant summer snowflake. Very similar to spring snowdrops, these bulbs are also in the amaryllis family, so are naturally deer and rodent proof. They will grow in sun or part shade, particularly useful in wet soils where other bulbs won’t grow. The summer snowflake grows to 18-24” tall.