black gum

Denny Schrock

plant a tree for arbor day

The last Friday in April is national Arbor Day. Celebrate by planting a tree! While some states designate a different day to mark the occasion locally, this is a good time for everyone to participate in greening the environment by planting a tree. If you have no room in your yard to plant a tree, consider growing one in a container garden or join a community tree planting project.

This year I’ll be planting several trees in my yard, among them black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), and Carolina silverbell (Halesia tetraptera). I like to grow less common plants for several reasons. Not only do I find their unique qualities interesting, but I know that uncommon plants are less likely to be wiped out by epidemics. (Think about Dutch elm disease, chestnut wilt, and emerald ash borer.) So as you decide what kind of tree you’d like to plant, keep in mind which species are widely planted in your neighborhood, and try something different.

Black gum, also known as tupelo, has outstanding fall color that ranges from red to purple to fluorescent orange and yellow. It prefers acidic soil and tolerates swampy conditions. 30 to 50 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide. Zones 4-9.

Chinkapin oak is a drought-tolerant native tree that grows best in full sun. The acorns are a favorite of wildlife. 40 to 60 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-7.

Carolina silverbell is named for its pendulous white springtime blooms. It prefers part shade, but will grow in full sun. 30 to 35 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide. Zones 5-8.


Everyday Gardeners

Love a Tree Day

Today’s post is in honor of Love a Tree Day, which happens on May 16th every year. (Who knew?) I would write about my favorite tree, but that’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I have dozens of favorites.

With ash trees under attack by emerald ash borer, American elms barely hanging on against Dutch elm disease, and American chestnuts all but wiped out by chestnut blight, I feel that it’s important to create diversity by planting a wide variety of trees.

I’ve taken that to heart in my own landscape. On my half-acre lot I have planted the following trees: a callery pear, a serviceberry, five Alberta spruces, three Austrian pines, three Eastern white pines, a sweetbay magnolia, a Japanese tree lilac, a goldenrain tree, five arborvitaes, eight upright junipers, a dawn redwood, a Vanderwolf limber pine, a black gum, a blue Colorado spruce, a red maple, a weeping European beech, an Eastern redbud, a shingle oak, a ginkgo, a Swiss stone pine, a kousa dogwood, and I’ve allowed a squirrel-seeded bur oak to grow in one of the perennial beds.

This doesn’t even count the trees growing in containers: two Meyer lemons, a Valencia orange, an Oroblanco grapefruit, two bay laurels, and various dwarf conifers.

I’ll admit to punishing several “problem children”. Self-seeded cottonwoods, hackberries, chokecherries, box elders, and willows are removed from my flowerbeds where they all too often take root. I also dig out sprouting black walnuts that the ambitious squirrels bury in the planting beds.

After six years of planting, I think that my lot is about full enough of trees. I still want sunny areas for growing veggies and sun-loving flowers. So from now on, new trees will have to be dwarf. I’m envisioning dwarf conifers in a new rock garden…..


Denny Schrock

plant a tree for arbor day

Scarlet Brandywine crabapple

Today is a very important day with long-lasting consequences. And I’m not talking about the royal wedding. It’s national Arbor Day.

While individual states often encourage tree planting on other dates, the last Friday in April is set aside nationally as a time to better the environment by planting a tree. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for a flowering tree, a conifer, a small tree, or a specific type of tree, such as Japanese maple or flowering crabapple. Determine what type of tree is best for your site depending on what interests you, the space available, Hardiness Zone, and environmental adaptability of the tree, and get planting!

Black gum is also known as tupelo.

I learned a lesson in my own yard about choosing the right tree for the right place. Six years ago when I moved into a new home, I planted hundreds of trees, shrubs, and perennials within a couple of weeks. (At last count I have 40 trees on my half-acre lot.) I could determine sun and shade patterns in the yard pretty easily, but it took me some time to learn about variations in soil conditions on the lot. As it turns out, I planted a ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) in an area with poor drainage. In that spot, the subsoil is blue clay, so moisture won’t sink in, even though there is a slope. I planted a black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) in a section of the yard that is well-drained with a tendency to become quite dry in late summer because of competition from nearby established pine trees. After five years of observing poor growth on these trees, last year I decided it was time to switch the trees’ locations, so I transplanted them. Black gum is native to swampy areas, while ginkgo is an upland tree that requires good drainage. This year I expect both trees to put on good growth because they’ll be better suited to the microclimate in which they’re planted. Perhaps in a few years they’ll catch up with the red maple which was planted at the same time, and has already grown to more than 25 feet tall.

Ginkgo tree