At a time of year when fall's spectacular colors are on vivid display, it's easy to see the benefits of a well-planned tree canopy. Though a simple act, planting a tree involves a host of details from site selection to proper care those first years, says city of Medford arborist Bill Harrington.
First and foremost, the site on which the tree is to be planted is as crucial as determining which species to plant.
Asked to name their favorite trees for the Rogue Valley's growing season, area arborists encourage homeowners to opt for slower-growing hardwoods
versus softer varieties.
"Fast-growing trees live fast and die young," says City of Medford arborist Bill Harrington. "Slower-growing trees mean stronger wood and limb attachments and healthier trees."
When selecting tree types, look at overall mature height and width of the tree's eventual canopy. A favorite of arborist Phil Frazee's, and ideal for lower areas beneath power lines, the golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) offers vibrant fall foliage and non-invasive roots in a shorter than standard shade tree.
Next to a single-story home, a Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) provides dramatic color in a low-maintenance tree and, Frazee says, with "a growth head like a mulberry, minus the growth pattern problems, and is just high enough to throw shade over the highest peak of the roof."
His other favorites include a Sour Gum (Nyssa sylvatica, 'Marsh'), Zelkova (Zelkova serrata) and a Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus) for strong limb structures and good shade density. A large tree for lot sizes that can accommodate a bigger display, Frazee likes the California Valley oak (Quercus lobata, 'Née'), a moderately fast growing tree with a trunk diameter up to 6 feet.
Trees to avoid in the Rogue Valley include Norway and red maples, due to invasive roots and heavy water requirements, along with too-big or too-messy willows, cottonwoods and silver maples.
"I see so many instances where a tree that would have grown full size to 35 or 40 feet, is a third [of] that, stuck in some small area on the side of a house," Harrington says.
In selecting a tree, consider size of the planting area, soil type and surrounding conditions. The scraggliest sapling today will one day require many times more space — above and below ground. If planning for larger trees, plan an area large enough to accommodate a tree's mature growth — canopy and root system. Remember to consider factors such as overhead power lines, underground utilities and nearby structures and concrete surfaces.
Consider the location of the tree being planted and its purpose. Will the tree provide shade, wind block, aesthetics? Remember, deciduous trees planted on the south, west and east perimeters of a lot will provide shade — and 10 to 30 percent cooler temperatures — during the summer, and allow scarce sunlight through bare branches during winter. Evergreens, on the other hand, planted on the north and west sides of a property, help reduce winter heating costs by serving as windbreaks.
As a word of advice, Eagle Point arborist Phil Frazee encourages homeowners to invest in Sunset Magazine's Western Garden Guide. "It will tell you how tall and broad a tree will grow so you know more about planting the right tree in the right place," Frazee says.
With basic site information in hand, and a guide on tree species for the Rogue Valley's planting zone 7, visit area nurseries for tree type suggestions, considering crown shape (oval, round, columnar) and specific features. Don't forget to consider maintenance involved with different tree types. For example, if raking is out of the question, go with an evergreen.
If possible, have the planting site ready before winter rains saturate the soil. Planting can be done through the winter, but not when soil gets saturated. When digging a hole, go 8 to 12 inches, but not much deeper, Frazee says.
"People tend to prepare soil by digging deep instead of digging wide," he says. "I rarely go deeper than 8 to 12 inches. You can do a raised bed if you can't dig that deep. Then add about 50 percent compost, then 3 to 4 inches of top quality dressing mulch on top."
While TLC, by way of water and trimming, is crucial those first few years, avoid fertilizer for one year, Frazee says. Instead, spray foliage with a liquefied seaweed mix (one tablespoon per gallon of water).
Most importantly, choose carefully and research tree types thoroughly. While it's tempting to find fast-growing trees, especially in newer neighborhoods without much tree cover, area arborists encourage planting slow-growing, high quality hardwood trees.
"I can't stress that enough," Frazee says. "Planting the right tree on the right site is as important as how well you care for the tree in the first few years"¦ a little effort definitely goes a long way."