Trees to like and hate -- 6-30-14

(This week’s wildflower is the Purple Crown Vetch, also known as Securigera veria, To see an enlarged view, click on the photo.)

Last week we asked readers to consider whether it was time to give up on those trees and shrubs, either battered by the winter, disease or just plain old age. Only you can make those decisions, but now we’re going to consider how to decide what should replace what you’re going to dig up.

The list includes:

1. Does it need sun, or does it thrive in a shady setting? I have two American hollies, one on either side of an outdoor stone fireplace. The one gets full sun, while the other is much shorter and less full, because it’s shaded out by a 50-foot magnolia. I must either cut down the magnolia, or live with the stunted holly tree.

2. How tall and full will it grow? Evergreens planted along the foundation of your home should be smaller varieties, unless you want to trim them every year. My grandmother had two lovely spruce trees on either side of her front stoop, but they eventually grew as tall as the house and about a quarter as wide. After she became a widow, she worried that someone could hide underneath the branches until she came out. You want something to complement your house, not make it look like a hideout in the woods.

3. Will the roots interfere with the foundation or sewage pipes? Weeping willows are notorious for working their way into underground plumbing like sewer or water drainage pipes. And certain species of maple -- Norway, silver and sugar -- have a tendency to send roots up to the ground’s surface, creating problems when you want to mow, or place your picnic table underneath. Find out the growth characteristics of the trees or shrubs that you want to buy before you put them into the ground.

Trees and shrubs I like include:

1. Aborvitaes. These green shrubs seem impervious to cold weather and drought and can be purchased in a number of varieties, including globe, dwarf and techny, especially cold-hardy. Except for bagworms, which love their foliage, they don’t draw pests and provide hidden space for nesting birds. You will need to knock snow off them in winter, to keep them from being bent out of shape.
2. Hydrangeas. I have a soft spot for these because my grandmother had them and because you can change the blooms from blue to pink by changing the pH -- the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. They add nice color to the yard and don’t get out of hand.

3. Forsythias. The small yellow flowers tell me that it’s really spring. So hardy it’s ridiculous, it should be pruned to maintain a natural shape rather than trimming it into a globe or a hedge, which leads branches on the inside to dry out and die.

4. Azaleas provide beautiful color in a perennial, but like modern roses, they require lots of care, beginning with maintaining proper pH in the soil and keeping an eye out for azalea lacewing, spider mites and some nematodes. Keeping up with azalea care marks you as a serious gardener.

5. Emerald and Gold. A shrub with yellow and green foliage, it is one of the shrubs with variegated foliage that have grown popular in the last few years. Its scientific name is Euonymus fortunei and it comes in a number of varieties. According to Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Emerald and Gold will tolerate drought and even black walnuts nearby, but not soil that stays wet.

Trees and shrubs I would avoid:

1. Bamboo. This will take over a yard and must be dug out to eradicate it. If someone tells you it’s “cute” tell them to plant it in their yard.

2. Mulberry. Your problem is not where to plant this, but how to get rid of all the seedlings it produces if planted anywhere near your property. Its fruit doesn’t have much of a taste, but will attract yellow jackets and other troublesome critters.

3. Maples, except for the Japanese maple, which is picturesque without making a pest of itself. Slow-growing, it does not drop all the “helicopter” seedlings that its green-foliaged brothers do.

4. Mimosas. In exchange for its delicate pink blossoms once a year, this tree drops a variety of seed pods, small branches and attracts small caterpillars. Plus, when it dies, cutting it down is like using an ax or a chainsaw on a truck tire.

5. Eastern white pine. In a forest, this tree is a good companion to other, tall deciduous trees. Alone, in your yard, it’s subject to wind and snow damage because it can top 50 feet. If you’re standing tall all by yourself, there’s nothing else to block the wind.

Next week, we’ll look at how to plant a tree, in case you don’t want the nursery to do it for you, or you’re buying a plant from a place that doesn’t offer that service.

(Did you enjoy this column? Send suggestions and constructive criticism to bobmaginnis@myactv.net. You may use a “pen name” or pseudonym to do so.)

 

 

 


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