It’s easy to walk onto a property that’s had its landscaping in place for a decade or two and immediately determine where problems lie. Bushes may have been planted too close to the foundation. Trees may have been planted too close together. Landscaping may be encroaching onto easements, impacting power wires or common fences.
But when you have a blank canvas in front of you, it’s hard to know what to plant and where. It’s hard to envision it when you purchase things in tiny little pots. It’s difficult to imagine how a six-inch plant will look in just a few short years. So the majority of us guess, planting where we have open space and a desire for something green.
Ask an arborist for advice, and he’ll quickly tell you there’s a better way. Here’s what you should consider before you plant your next tree.
Find The Right Tree
There are a number of things to consider when finalizing your decision on a tree. Start by answering: evergreen or deciduous?
Evergreen trees keep their leaves or needles year round. Conifers are evergreen trees with needles instead of leaves. Broad-leaf evergreens are trees such as Southern Magnolia that keep their leaves year round but don’t have needles.
Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter. Many have leaves that turn bright colors before falling off in the fall (like the Japanese Stewartia tree). Deciduous trees are ideal for planting on the west or south side of the house, to allow light to flow in through the windows during the winter, and to shade the house from heat during the summer.
Flowering trees are wonderful additions for a pop of color just about anywhere. They can create large-scale color during spring’s bloom time, and follow it with a vivid display in the fall as they lose their leaves. Dogwoods, Redbuds, Flowering Cherries and Magnolias all make perfect choices to bring color into your yard.
Oregon’s mild climate also means that you can grow a variety of fruit or nut trees as well. Apples, Figs, Plums, and Hazelnuts are just a few of the trees available for planting and growing. And while they do need special care throughout their lifetime, partnering with an arborist with extensive knowledge of Oregon’s climate will provide you with exceptional results.
Choose The Best Spot
Start by defining its purpose: Is it for aesthetics? Privacy? Shade? Windbreak? Then, consider size limitations.
When planting your tree in Oregon, keep in mind that trees come in many shapes and sizes. Think of them as pyramids, lollipops, columns, vases or weeping (nice and full). Oregon arborists often recommend mixing and matching the different types throughout your yard, depending on the amount of space you have.
Plant a tree in the wrong place and you’ll know it right away.
In Portland, a street tree is considered to be a tree that is planted between a sidewalk and the street. The wrong tree planted in this area can cause big problems, so the City of Portland provides a list of trees it has deemed acceptable for space and to allow ample room for power lines.
A tree that is too large will have its root system bursting from the ground, coming up under sidewalks and impacting the walkability of the street around it. The crown of the tree requires pruning in the center to make it safe for power lines above.
A tree that is sized correctly will have a root system small enough to stay within the boundaries of where it was planted. It will have a canopy that sits just below the power lines. Also, you should consider your hardiness zone and your location and weather as all these will play a large part in how well your tree performs over the years.
Is The New Tree Healthy?
What makes a tree healthy? It can seem like a guessing game as you make your final selection. Nothing can be more frustrating than purchasing a tree, planting it, and having it die the first year. You’ve missed an entire growing season.
Yet there are easy ways to tell from the moment you see a tree just how healthy it is.
Some trees will be delivered as bare root seedlings. Start by looking for good color in the plant and moisture throughout the root system. For a deciduous seedling, look for a root system that is approximately equal to the length of the stem.
Some trees are delivered balled and burlapped. Look for a soil ball that is firm to the touch, especially near the tree trunk. Soil balls that have broke open or have a root system bursting out, encircling the base of the trunk indicate potential damage. For a container grown tree, look for roots firmly in place without circling the pot. Meanwhile, root-bound trees should be avoided like the plague – it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
In most cases, you can determine if a tree is healthy with just a few moments of inspection: look for healthy bark, a trunk free from damage; look for branches that are well distributed around the trunk; look for well-developed leaders.
Plant It Carefully
For a bare-root tree, carefully unpack the root system and untangle the roots. Soak them in water for 3 to 6 hours before planting. Make sure the hole is wider than seems necessary, to give the root system a chance to grow and expand without crowding. Partially fill the hole with dirt, firming the soil around the lower root system. Make sure they are fully supported before moving on. Don’t add chemicals, fertilizers, potting soil or other additives; dirt is more than adequate to support your new tree. Then fill in the remaining hole; do not pack in the soil. Give the tree plenty of water. Provide a protective layer of mulch around the base of the tree without actually touching the trunk.
For a container tree, dig a hole that is three to four times bigger than the container. Never yank the tree out of the container, instead carefully slide it away. If the container is tightly packed, and roots have begun circling the root ball, carefully make an X cut across the bottom and four vertical slices along the sides to open it up. Place in the hole, so the root collar sits just above ground level. Then begin filling in with soil, securing the tree into a straight position as you move forward. Give the tree plenty of water and provide a protective layer of mulch around the tree.
For a burlapped tree, you’ll need to dig a saucer-shaped hole about five times the diameter and as deep as the root ball. A rototill may be necessary to achieve the right depth. Make sure the root collar will be slightly above ground after it’s planted. When handling the tree, move it by the root ball, not by the trunk as that can damage the tree and separate the root ball from the trunk. Once the tree is in position, use wire cutters to peel away the burlap and the wiring. Remove all rope, twine, wire and nails. Cut away burlap without worrying about what’s underneath. If vinyl or treated burlap was used, remove it all. Then use soil to fill in the hole without covering the root collar. Water thoroughly and use mulch for protection.
Want to give your trees extra care throughout their lives? The best place to start is by working with an arborist regularly. Have questions? Give us a call today.
Aaron Sanders has worked in landscaping for 15 years and continues to be an asset to Mr. Tree Services. He firmly believes that your attitude determines your altitude in life.