Weekend: Tips to sprout your tree selection knowledge

By LAURIE WURTH PRESSEL

Trees are the giants of the home landscape, both in size and contribution. They reduce carbon dioxide and pollutants in the air, offer shade from the summer heat, increase the value of your property, provide beauty in all seasons, and give shelter and habitat for birds and wildlife.

Fall is a perfect time to plant a new tree in your yard. The soil is still warm, but the cooler temperatures and plentiful rain get your tree off to a good start. You can also find great deals on containerized trees along with balled and burlapped trees from local nurseries that are eager to sell their stock before winter.

According to Thomas Mills, head of Findlay’s Shade Tree Commission, when selecting a new tree, keep in mind the adage “the right tree in the right place.”

Consider a tree’s mature height and spread, its light and soil requirements, and its attributes and downsides, comparing that to the site where you want to plant the tree.

Another factor to consider is species diversity. Maples, oaks, birches and evergreens are stalwart choices, but there are many lesser-known species that would make a great addition to your yard.

Check out these recommendations from Ohio tree experts:

1. Sassafras

Brilliant autumn foliage and an aromatic smell are the hallmarks of this native North American tree. The tree has a spreading canopy that blocks out sunlight and adds visual interest to the landscape.

It prefers acidic, moist and well-drained soil, but has some tolerance for salt and drought. A slow-growing tree, the sassafras will eventually reach a height of 30 to 60 feet.

“The sassafras is one of my favorite trees that I would recommend planting in Findlay,” Mills said.

2. American hornbeam (also known as blue-beech or ironwood)

An American native plant, this understory tree prefers moist, well-drained soil, but is adaptive to heavy soils and a variety of light conditions. “The bark is beautiful and provides winter interest,” said Doug Conley, horticultural supervisor at Toledo Botanical Gardens.

“It’s a slow grower, maturing at 20 feet tall and wide, so it’s suitable for a variety of homeowners, from the small city lot to the landowner with some woods. Prune sparingly. It also has really cool catkins (flowering structures).”

3. Bald cypress

This tree is a deciduous conifer, meaning it has needles, but the tree loses its needles in the fall and they regrow in the spring. The bald cypress can handle occasional standing water and wet feet. Because of its large size (80 feet), you need space to grow this one.

Commonly found in southern swamps, the bald cypress is extremely adaptable to our northern climate, said Cathy Smith, the Tree Lady, a consulting arborist in Findlay. “The bald cypress is a beautiful tree that has low maintenance and disease free. You can check out a mature stand of these trees at Emory Adams Park.”

4. Kentucky coffeetree

Upon maturity, the Kentucky coffeetree is another large tree (60 to 70 feet) that is suitable for homeowners with a lot of land. The female tree produces large pods that can be messy, so be sure to purchase a male cultivar such as “Prairie Titan,” said Mike Ecker, director of living collections at Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio.

“The tree is coarsely branched when it is young, so nurseries have a hard time selling them,” Ecker said. “But in 10 years it turns into a really handsome tree with bark that provides winter interest and with dappled shade.”

5. Yellowwood tree

This tree tolerates alkaline soil and grows to about 35 feet.

“The tree’s bark has a smooth texture similar to a beech tree and the tree has beautiful white flowers in the spring,” said Grant Jones, arborist for the city of Bowling Green. “We’ve had a lot of success growing the yellowwood as a street tree.”

For tips on how to properly plant your new tree, visit the Arbor Day Foundation at www.arborday.org.

Wurth Pressel is an Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener in Hancock County.



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