Tree Selection and Planting Basics
We moved into a new neighborhood a couple of months ago. One of the main attractions of this particular house was the very private and park-like backyard. Well, a few weeks after we moved in, we woke up on a Saturday morning to the sound of saws. One of the neighbors behind us were cutting down 20-year-old pine and spruce trees. These were healthy, beautiful and very large trees!
The house behind us sits higher on a hill than we do. Prior to the removal of those trees, we couldn’t see their house, not even the roof line. All of the sudden, we have a full view — not only their entire house, but the whole of their backyard to-boot.
I literally stood on the deck and cried. You know how it is when you finally get settled into your new house, then all the unexpected challenges start to pile up?
It wasn’t just the loss of the privacy that upset me. It was the loss of large mature landscaping. Colorado has not proven to me to be the easiest place to sustain a beautiful yard. After crying over spilled milk for three weeks, I came to a conclusion. Yes, the neighbors had the right to cut down those trees, but we also had the right to plant some of our own.
For tree selection, we need to determine a couple of things. First, how much room do you have? Try to imagine the full grown tree. A young cottonwood may fit in the corner of your yard today, but will it fit in five or 10 years? What about 20? I once planted a weeping willow tree in a tiny area of our small yard. Big mistake. Even horticulturists can be driven by their emotions and prone to poor plant selection. I wanted fast-growing, and I got it.
Would a columnar shape work best or would you prefer a broad canopy? Do you want an evergreen or a deciduous tree? Are you interested in something that flowers in the spring or produces fruit in the fall?
Next, determine what grows in your area. Drive around your neighborhood. Do you see the same trees over and over that are thriving and healthy? And, refer to this handy Front Range Tree Recommendation list. The trees are given ratings as to whether they are recommended for our area or not. You can also find notable characteristics, water requirements and potential issues for each tree on the list: extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/treereclist.pdf
Is fall a good time to plant a tree? Yes. The Colorado State Forest Service shares Sept. 1 to Oct. 15 is one of the optimal-planting periods. On their website, they offer some great planting tips. They suggest planting the top of the root ball slightly above ground level. Make certain the trunk flare is one inch higher than the surrounding soil: csfs.colostate.edu/colorado-trees/selecting-planting-and-caring-for-trees/planting-tips
For additional reading, including soil amendments, fertilizer, staking and more, Colorado State University Extension offers these online: Tree Selection: Right Plant, Right Place and the Science of Planting Trees .
Back to my story. I went to a local tree farm this week and selected a maple tree large enough to give us some immediate privacy in the backyard. Unfortunately, I will have to wait a couple of weeks to have it delivered and installed. We typically do all the planting ourselves, but my husband recently notified me that football season is starting, and he is done with weekend projects!
Kelley Rawlsky has an M.S. in horticulture and is the director of Bringing People and Plants Together, an organization dedicated to bringing horticulture education and therapy to the community. For more information: PeopleAndPlantsTogether @gmail.com or follow us on Facebook.