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Arboriculture / Tree Care

Tree Selection

With a little planning and foresight, the tree you plant today can be the specimen of tomorrow. Proper tree selection can make the difference between an outstanding tree that will increase the value of your property, reduce your heating costs or provide visual appeal and one that will be a nuisance, shade the house too much, “drop stuff,” or need constant maintenance and care.

Performing a site evaluation will enlighten you to what your tree’s home will be, long after you are not around. Evaluations include soil conditions, hardiness zone, light availability, ground cover, air pollution, etc. These factors must be combined with your goals for the tree. Do you want shade, flower, a physical barrier? Do you want a tree that will be fast growing? Do you mind raking leaves? Quality arborists, nurseries and landscapers will be able to walk you through this process if it becomes to involved for you.

So here are some concepts that will allow your tree planting selection to succeed.

Evergreen vs. Deciduous

Evergreen trees will provide year round shading and wind protection. Deciduous trees will shade in the summer while allowing winter sun to penetrate to warm your house.


Is the mature height of the tree going to interfere with overhead powerlines? Will the mature width of the tree be rubbing up against your house? Your neighbor’s house? Will it tower over or crowd out other trees or shrubs?

The Cultivar

Many tree species have numerous cultivars (cultivated varieties), which have different growth forms, colors, flowering or fruiting tendencies, etc. Red maple (Acer rubra) cultivars range from broad canopies (Autumn Flame, 55’ height by 45’ width) to columnar canopies (Armstrong , 70’ by 15’). Some tree species, such as Japanese maples (Acer palmatum), have so many cultivars that there are nurseries and books devoted exclusively to them. Some cultivars are resistant to common diseases or insects. Some are more tolerant of clay or sandy, acid or alkaline soils. Research the cultivar and find a nursery that can say with certainty that this tree is the cultivar that you want.

Growth Rate

How long will it take the tree to get to its mature size? Many fast growing trees have inherently weak wood and branch attachments. These may not be good trees for close to the house. A white oak has incredibly strong wood, but will take several human generations to reach its mature height.

Stuff that Drops

Seeds, needles, fruit, leaves, branches. Trees have all of these things and more. Unless you are ready to deal with the sound of rolling thunder as nuts drop in the wind and a hard yet squishy mess in your yard, the majestic and stately black walnut may not be for you. While the deodara cedar is a hearty and impressive conifer, don’t try to maintain a lawn under its baughs. And by all means, don’t plant poplars near the house. They like to drop branches.

Environmental Requirements and Stresses

Trees need soil, water, light and air in the right combinations to stay healthy. Too much sunlight can cause many small, attractive, flowering trees to become stressed and succumb to pests and diseases. Whereas, planting an apple tree in the afternoon shade may put a damper on apple development. Lawns generally have higher water requirements then many trees can handle, so selecting one that can deal with moist feet will be crucial to its long-term survival.