Tree selection is one of the most important investment decisions a home owner makes when landscaping a new home or replacing a tree lost to damage or disease. Considering that most trees have the potential to outlive the people who plant them, the impact of this decision is one that can influence a lifetime. Match the tree to the site, and both lives will benefit. Winter Hill Tree Farm has experienced Horticulturists on hand to help you make the right decision.
The question most frequently asked of tree care professionals is “Which kind of tree do you think I should plant?” Before this question can be answered, a number of factors need to be considered.
Asking and answering these and other questions before selecting a tree will help you choose the “right tree for the right place.” Once you’ve given the factors some thought give our staff a call to chat about what trees will work best for you.
Trees make our surroundings more pleasant. Properly placed and cared for, trees also increase the value of our real estate. A large shade tree provides relief from summer’s heat and, when properly placed, can reduce summer cooling costs. An ornamental tree provides beautiful flowers, leaves, bark, or fruit. Evergreens with dense, persistent leaves can be used to provide a windbreak or a screen for privacy. A tree that drops its leaves in autumn allows the sun to warm a house in the winter. A tree or shrub that produces fruit can attract birds and wildlife into your home landscape. Street trees decrease the glare from pavement, reduce runoff, filter out pollutants, and add oxygen to the air we breath. Street trees also improve the overall appearance and quality of life in a neighbourhood.
A basic principle of modern architecture is “form follows function.” This is a good rule to remember when selecting a tree. Selecting the right form (shape) to complement the desired function (what you want the tree to do) can significantly reduce maintenance costs and increase the tree’s value in the landscape. When making a selection about form, also consider mature tree size. Trees grow in a variety of sizes and shapes, as shown below. They can vary in height from several inches to several hundred feet. Select a form and size that will fit the planting space provided.
Depending on your site restrictions, you can choose from among hundreds of combinations of form and size. You may choose a small-spreading tree in a location with overhead utility lines. You may select a narrow, columnar form to provide a screen between two buildings. You may choose large, vase-shaped trees to create an arbor over a driveway or city street. You may even determine that the site just does not have enough space for a tree of any kind.
Selecting a tree that will thrive in a given set of site conditions is the key to long-term tree survival. The following is a list of the major site conditions to consider before selecting a tree for planting:
The amount and quality of soil present in your site can limit planting success. In urban sites, the topsoil often has been disturbed and frequently is shallow, compacted, and subject to drought. Under these conditions, trees are continuously under stress. For species that are not able to handle these types of conditions, proper maintenance designed to reduce stress is necessary to ensure adequate growth and survival. Many arborists will, for a minor charge, take soil samples from your yard to test for fertility, salinity, and pH (alkalinity or acidity). The tests will be returned with recommendations on ways to improve poor soil conditions with fertilizers or soil amendments (sand, compost, or manure) and will also help Winter Hill to recommend tree species that will do well in the soils found on your site.
The amount of sunlight available will affect tree and shrub species selection for a particular location. Most woody plants require full sunlight for proper growth and flower bloom. Some do well in light shade, but few tree species perform well in dense shade. Exposure to wind is also a consideration. Wind can dry out soils, causing drought conditions and damage to branches and leaves during storms, and can actually uproot newly planted trees that have not had an opportunity to establish root systems. Special maintenance, such as staking or more frequent watering, may be needed to establish young trees on windy sites.
This aspect of tree selection is often overlooked. The reality of the situation is that the top five causes of tree death are the result of things people do: soil compaction, underwatering, overwatering, vandalism, and the number one cause—planting the wrong tree—account for more tree deaths than all insect and disease-related tree deaths combined.
Tree roots require oxygen to develop and thrive. Poor drainage can remove the oxygen available to the roots from the soil and kill the tree. Before planting, dig some test holes 12 inches wide by 12 inches deep in the areas you are considering planting trees. Fill the holes with water and time how long it takes for the water to drain away. If it takes more than 6 hours, you may have a drainage problem. If so, ask us for recommendations on how to correct the problem, or choose a different site.
Many different factors can limit the planting space available to the tree: overhead or underground utilities, pavement, buildings, other trees, visibility. The list goes on and on. Make sure there is adequate room for the tree you select to grow to maturity, both above and below ground.
Hardiness is the plant’s ability to survive in the extreme temperatures of the particular geographic region in which you are planting the tree. Plants can be cold hardy, heat tolerant, or both. Before you make your final decision, make sure the plant you have selected is “hardy” in your area.
Insect and disease organisms affect almost every tree and shrub species. Every plant has its particular pest problems, and the severity varies geographically. These pests may or may not be life threatening to the plant. You should select plants resistant to pest problems for your area.
Personal preferences play a major role in the selection process. Now that your homework is done, you are ready to select a species for the planting site you have chosen. Make sure you use the information you have gathered about your site conditions, and balance it with the aesthetic decisions you make related to your personal preferences.
The species must be suitable for the geographic region (hardy), tolerant to the moisture and drainage conditions of your soil, be resistant to pests in your area, and have the right form and size for the site and function you have envisioned.
Remember, the beautiful picture of a tree you looked at in a magazine or book was taken of a specimen that is growing vigorously because it was planted in the right place. If your site conditions tell you the species you selected will not do well under those conditions, do not be disappointed when the tree does not perform in the same way.
Remember all Winter Hill Tree varieties are listed on our website together with pictures so you can check out the species suggested by our Horticulturists. We can also take pictures and email you the exact trees we believe are right for you just to ensure that if you cannot make it to our tree farm in Canyonleigh in the NSW Southern Highlands you can still be confident knowing exactly what tree you are purchasing.
Have fun and we look forward to hearing from you!