Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thinking on Trees

The few days of beautiful February weather got me kicked off to a good start on my yard work, which means I haven't had as much time to sit around the house and blog.

Yesterday I got the pleasure of raking the yard and laying down bark mulch, as it turns out 4 cubic feet of bark doesn't come anywhere near what I will actually need to finish the yard around our patio.  I was surprised at just how little it did cover, today I will go back to the store and get another 6 bags (since that's likely all my car can carry at once) and see how much farther it gets me.

In the meantime I am on a mission to discover what would be the best plant to put in the front of my house, where it is bare and gets no shade at all in the summer from about 2 pm to sunset.  If I can come up with something attractive with flowers or fruits that will shade the house it could make a big difference in our cooling bill during the summer heat, and provide food or bouquets or at the least a nice centerpiece to the house.  I have considered a lilac, but am thinking that it may be too slim to make much difference in shade.  I've also considered trellising grapes, wisteria, or clematis, but again I am not sure they would get large enough to provide much shade.  An evergreen could make a statement, and won't make a big mess like deciduous or fruit trees, but it also won't make a floral show in spring or fruits later in the year.  The other option that came to mind was a cherry tree, or other fruit tree that wouldn't require cross-pollination.  I'd have flowers, fruits, a mess to clean up, and a shade tree large and branching enough to make a difference.
This time of year the house is shaded, but by summer there will be nothing to keep it cool.

The annuals are not nearly so difficult to decide on since they change each year, but a tree is a big deal.  It will be there for years, and probably won't produce much for several years after planting, I need to be absolutely certain before selecting a tree to put into the yard.

When you are considering a semi-permanent to permanent change to your landscape here are some things to keep in mind:

-How big will it get?
-How much maintenance will it require?
-Will it drop fruits or leaves that need cleanup each year and do you want to take on the extra work?
-Will the planting location make a difference in other things? Will it shade the house, or garden?  Could the roots grow too large and damage sidewalks, driveways, or water pipes?
-What are you trying to gain from the planting? Shade, flowers, food, etc.
-If it is a fruit tree, will you need more than one for pollination?
-Will you move before you can reap the benefits of the plant? If you expect to move in 3-5 years it doesn't make much sense to plant a tree that won't offer much shade for 10 years.
-If you select for appearance, be sure to take the time to find out if your tree or shrub is native, and if it has many known pests or diseases.  If you select something for its health to begin with, you will have fewer worries later on.

The Arbor Day Foundation can be a great resource for learning about trees, and even offers 10 free trees selected for your area as a membership incentive (they also offer member discounts for the purchase of trees). This can be a great way to get some trees started in a larger landscape, or you can ask friends or neighbors if they'd be interested in sharing your 10 trees.  The small donation/membership cost is worth it if you are planning to add trees to your yard, but aren't necessarily seeking specific types.  When I joined a few years ago it was primarily just to make a donation to what I felt was a worthy group, I ended up sending my free trees to my nephew who has several acres and raises fowl as well as a garden, he made good use of the trees which I didn't really have the space for at the time.

I am definitely leaning toward a cherry tree, however there is some debate over what type; my daughter likes sweet cherries, while I prefer to preserve pie cherries. There are combination trees available, but I have never seen one that did as well as separate sweet and sour trees.  Next stop, check with the local nursery on good selections for our area, and do a little research on planting a new fruit tree.

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