this article I will focus on selecting the perfect tree for your
garden. Before going tree shopping, you must answer some fundamental
function will the tree serve?
desire shade or a windbreak? What ornamental qualities would you
like? Trees can be grown for their foliage, flowers, form, bark and
color. Are edible fruits or support for wildlife a consideration?
Where will the tree be sited?
the location’s exposure (sun to shade) and soil quality (depth,
drainage, moisture). Determine if it will be subject to windy
conditions or road salt.
large will the tree get?
be placed where it can grow to its mature height and width without
interfering with other plants, utility lines or structures. It is
pure folly to plan to keep a tree at a desired size via pruning.
From a design standpoint, it should be in proportion to the other
objects in the landscape.
Evergreen or deciduous?
want foliage throughout the year, an evergreen (broadleaf or needle)
is the obvious choice. If seasonal changes (including leaf drop in
the fall) are a priority, consider planting a deciduous tree.
much will it cost?
on the size, availability and rarity of a tree, it can cost
thousands of dollars. You will save substantially if you’re willing
to start with a smaller tree and can plant it yourself. If you
desire instant impact, be prepared to pay more for the years of care
a tree requires to grow into a large size.
above criteria, search the Internet, catalogs and books to narrow
the choices to several candidates. Visit a local nursery and speak
with an experienced grower about your selections and ask for
suggestions. Observe mature trees in your area and be realistic
about their ultimate size.
you’ve decided on the “perfect” tree, it’s time to go shopping. A
nursery is the best place for evaluating a tree. Growers have trees
of various sizes in their fields, and you can often choose the exact
specimen for your garden. Nurseries and landscapers can also source
trees from other growers. You can rely on their expertise to select
a fine tree.
Royal Star Magnolia
looking for an unusual one that can’t be found via a nursery, online
sources are an option. Trees ordered online are shipped bare-root
and typically dormant. They will be small but usually do very well
once planted in the garden.
nursery, evaluate the most important parts of a tree — its roots and
system is too often overlooked when evaluating a tree. An unhealthy
root system will cause a tree to struggle and probably die. The
roots are packaged using several different methods — bare-root,
balled-and-burlapped (B&B) and container-grown.
Bare-root trees have all the soil removed, making the tree
easier to transport and reducing costs. This type of root system is
susceptible to drying. Watering, handling and planting a bare-root
tree requires special care.
Balled-and-burlapped (B&B) trees are dug from a nursery bed. The
roots are wrapped in burlap (natural or synthetic), then encased in
a metal basket to secure the root system. The major disadvantage is
that a majority of the tree’s roots (greater than 90 percent) are
left in the field. To maximize survival of a B&B tree, verify that
the diameter of the root ball is at least 10 times the diameter
(caliper) of the tree trunk, measured 12 inches above ground level.
Balled and Burlapped Trees (B&B)
example, a tree with a 1-inch caliper should have a root ball that
is 10 inches or more in diameter. If there is a choice between
several sizes of the same tree (genus/species), select the smaller
size. Besides cost, studies have shown that a smaller tree adjusts
to its new home more quickly, and over time, can catch up with and
surpass its larger counterpart.
Container-grown trees are grown directly in a container. Their
entire root system is contained within the pot. If possible,
carefully remove the tree from the container and inspect the root
system. The roots should hold the soil mass together and be evident
on the outside of the soil ball. A root ball that is tightly
encircled, dense and is growing through the holes in the container
has been in the pot too long, and it may not be a good candidate for
and container grown trees, it is important to inspect the lowest
part of the trunk at soil level. The trunk should become wider as it
enters the soil. This area is called the root flare. The root flare
must always be visible above the soil level. If it isn’t, the tree
is likely planted too deeply, which can lead to problems in the
you’ve determined that the root system is healthy, look at the parts
of the tree above soil level, the shoots.
trunk should have a good taper from bottom to top.
leader (or leaders) should be strong and well-developed. Many trees
have single leaders. If it has a second or co-dominant leader, it
can cause future problems with the shape and growth of the tree.
branches should be well-developed and spaced around the tree’s
trunk. They should have a considerably smaller diameter than the
trunk. Good spacing between branches is in the 8- to 12-inch range.
angle between the trunk and a branch (called the crotch angle)
should be wide. A branch attached via a narrow crotch angle is weak
and can easily break in a storm.
should be no signs of insects, disease or other damage on the leaves
or woody parts of the tree.
found your perfect tree, take good care of it until it is planted.
Keep it sheltered and watered. If the tree is bare-root, it should
be planted immediately.
Needle Scale on a Pine