May 2009 Issue
Lovely as a Tree
Many of Ohio’s residential landscapes were scarred last fall when winds from Hurricane Ike damaged their trees. Here, forestry experts give advice for choosing the right trees to replant your green space.
SMALL TREES | under 25 feet
Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata)
This is a compact, rounded tree that eventually grows to a height of about 25 to 30 feet, with cherry-tree-like bark that remains attractive year-round. As an added bonus, large, cream-colored flower panicles blossom in late June.
Why it’s a good choice: Pests don’t bother the healthy, deep-green leaves, and it’s tolerant of both drought and high soil pH.
What to watch for: This tree does not thrive in standing water.
MEDIUM TREES | under 40 feet
Japanese Pagoda (Sophora japonica)
A good choice for homeowners who want a quick replacement for the tree they lost, this tree grows rapidly, eventually reaching 40 to 60 feet. After about 10 years, it blooms yellow flowers in mid to late summer.
Why it’s a good choice: This tree tolerates urban conditions and drought.
What to watch for: Because it grows rapidly, be careful not to plant this tree where it will eventually interfere with power lines or other objects.
LARGE TREES | 40 to 60 feet
Ginkgo or Maidenhair (male only) (Ginkgo biloba)
This tree has relatively few problems, making it a great choice for any yard. It usually grows to a height of about 50 to 70 feet, a stately accent to your landscape. Best of all, fall color on ginkgos is magnificent, but the golden leaves drop suddenly with colder temperatures and windy days.
Why it’s a good choice: The gingko is adaptable to urban conditions and tough sites.
What to watch for: Be sure to purchase a male tree. During the fall, female gingko trees develop fruits with unpleasant smells.
London Planetree (Platanus x acerfolia)
A cross between an American sycamore and an Oriental plane, this tree originated in England in the early 1600s. With patchy but attractive olive-green, creamy gray and brown bark, it is easily distinguishable. This tree also grows rapidly, reaching a height of about 85 feet with a 75-foot spread, making it another suitable replacement for a lost tree.
Why it’s a good choice: It’s a better urban tree than our native sycamore due to its resistance to the disease anthracnose.
What to watch for: Although it tolerates dry, compacted soil, it is best suited to moist sites with plenty of room for root and crown expansion.
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
This upright tree with its impressive, uniformly rounded crown and large trunk can grow to a height of 70 to 90 feet. It is especially attractive when grouped with multiple trees, and makes a great shade tree. Corky, thick twigs and deeply furrowed bark make it interesting — even during the winter months.
Why it’s a good choice: It adapts to various soil types, and is not usually threatened by pests and disease.
What to watch for: The acorns can create a big clean-up job.
Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata)
This vase-shaped tree reaches about 50 feet at maturity. It is a tough, urban-tolerant tree with distinctive exfoliating bark, and it grows best in full sun. Although the tree has a moderate rate of growth, which may cross it off the list for some, its yellow and orange leaves are an added treat in the fall.
Why it’s a good choice: This tough tree grows especially well in downtown and residential areas.
What to watch for: Purchase trees with branches spaced along the trunk so they can develop a secure hold onto the tree.
Norway Spruce (Picea abies)
Rockefeller Center likes this tree and you will, too. For some, this is the Christmas tree of choice, a delicate, pyramid-shaped evergreen. It can grow to be 80 to 100 feet tall with a 25- to 40-foot spread, although it will be slow getting to this point. Small-diameter branches sweep horizontally from the straight trunk, which can grow to a thickness of 4 feet.
Why it’s a good choice: This is an aesthetically beautiful, year-round addition to any yard.
What to watch for: Because the root system is shallow and often dense, it may be difficult to grow grass around the tree.
Giant White Cedar (Thuja plicata)
Also known as Giant Arborvitae, this tree forms an upright pyramidal silhouette, making it the perfect hedge or privacy screen. Often reaching 50 to 70 feet in height, with a spread of 15 to 25 feet, it has a narrow crown that makes it a good tree to plant next to buildings.
Why it’s a good choice: This is a fast-growing solution to the privacy you may have lost if the storm destroyed a fence or hedge.
What to watch for: Avoid dry soils. Instead, plant in moist areas or provide irrigation during dry months.