Selecting the Right Tree

So, you’re looking to add a new tree to your landscape.  Where do you begin?  Trees come in a variety of shapes and sizes; are deciduous or evergreen; some may have blooms while some feature gorgeous fall color.  How do you decide?  First, you need to determine the tree’s purpose.  What do you want to get out of the tree?  Next, you need to consider environmental factors, size and location.

What do you want to get out of your tree?

Hydrangea Woodland GardenShade.  If you are looking to create a shady retreat in your yard, trees are the best at creating shade; even more so than man-made structures.  Determine where you would like the shadow and during what time of day.  Wide-crowned, deciduous trees are the best choice for shade.  Some good choices are red maples or black gums.

Aesthetics.  If you want a showy, visually appealing tree, select one that contrasts with the landscape in form, texture or color.  The more the contrast, the better the tree will stand out.  Favorites include blooming trees such as prunus mume, dogwood and cherry, or show stopping Japanese maples for their bold foliage colors.

shutterstock_256547593Screens and windbreaks.  Sometimes we need privacy in our yards, or we would like to reduce noise or wind.  A row of trees can create this easily.  Low-branching conifers work best for privacy. (See our related article on screening shrubs).  Although technically large shrubs and not trees, smaller selections such as arborvitae ‘Degroot’s Spire’ or ‘Emerald Green’, skip laurel & boxwoods work well around a small area like a patio or pool, or in small yards, while arborvitae ‘Green Giant’ and cryptomeria ‘Goshino’ work better across larger areas. Noise is best reduced by tall, densely planted broad leafed trees.  Good choices are maples, oaks and evergreen magnolias.  Windbreaks are most effective with a mix of conifers and deciduous trees planted in a step-like arrangement.  For South and east sides of the house, choose deciduous trees – they’ll allow the sun’s rays to help heat up the home in winter.

Boundaries.  Trees are helpful to visually define your property or driveway.  Small, narrow-crowned selections such as pyramidal hornbeam, regal prince oak and spartan juniper are great choices.  They’ll do the trick but not invade yours or your neighbors space.

shutterstock_66520645Factors to consider

Moisture.  Pay careful attention to the area where you would like to plant.  Does the area flood periodically or will the tree be subject to dry conditions?  Is it continuously exposed to the drying effects of wind?

Soil.  Soil factors are often overlooked.  Soil depth, pH and structure, in addition to the moisture, can make a difference in the success of the tree.  Each species has different tolerances to alkalinity and acidity and compacted soil can impact a tree’s growth and size potential.

Temperature.  Make sure that you select a tree species suitable to your local hardiness zone.  We choose trees that are hardy to our area and can withstand our winter temperatures.  Other retailers, especially ones online may carry selections that are not suited for our climate.

DSC09537Exposure.  Every tree is different and has different requirement for light.  Match the tree’s need to your planting site.

Size & Location.  Space requirements for full grown trees is often overlooked or mis-understood.  Before planting, know what your tree will look like as it nears maturity.  Consider it’s height, canopy and root space.  Keep in mind nearby walkways, drainage pipes, electrical wires and other trees and structures.  Also consider the view from your favorite window or vantage point.

Trees are an integral part of the landscape. They are functional in many ways and provide years of enjoyment.  They are also a long term commitment and should be carefully selected and planed as a larger part of the yard or landscape.  Our expert staff is always available to assist you in making the best selections – don’t be intimidated to ask us for additional help and information!  Stop in today or call our tree and shrub department directly at 919-459-2795.  You can also dig deeper into learning about tree varieties by using our online plant finder.