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It’s not too late to plant a tree for Arbor Day

“The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful, and the ennobling in man, and for one, I wish to see it become universal.”

— J. Sterling Morton (1832-1902), founder of Arbor Day

Julius Morton, an outspoken conservative from Detroit, moved his family to farm 160 acres in the Nebraska Territory in 1854. Immediately, he noticed a need for more trees in the area and began an ambitious campaign, not only to plant trees all over his own property, but to encourage other farmers, school children and civic organizations to plant trees, too.

The first Arbor Day in the U.S. was celebrated in Nebraska April 10, 1874, a day when an estimated one million trees were planted throughout the state. By 1882, Arbor Day had become a national event, and today is observed on the last Friday of April (April 27 this year).

Individual states set Arbor Day according to local climates; in Oregon, Arbor Day is observed the first full week of April. Yes, I am aware that today begins the second week of April. Never mind; it’s not too late to plant trees in the Rogue Valley if, like me, you’ve been waiting all winter to grow something and now already feel behind schedule.

What kind of tree to plant depends on site conditions (sun and wind exposure, soil, drainage and elevation) and the purpose for the tree. Following are some suggestions for the Rogue Valley from the OSU Extension Service and the Jackson County Master Gardener Association. I’ve included trees that grow 100 feet tall or less when mature.

Native trees that support wildlife suitable for drier, sunny sites: Evergreens include canyon live oak and tanbark oak, Pacific madrone and Ponderosa pine. Deciduous trees include California black oak, Oregon white oak, Western redbud (shrub/small tree) and Western serviceberry (shrub/small tree). Deciduous natives that are suitable for moist, shadier sites include Oregon ash, Pacific dogwood and vine maple.

Trees that attract pollinators (other than natives already mentioned): American winterberry, birch, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash, persimmon and willow.

Trees resistant to drought: Evergreens include cider and small-leaved gum, dwarf tanbark oak, foxtail pine, Spanish olive and sweet bay. Deciduous trees include American smoke tree, Amur chokecherry, Chinese pistache, crape myrtle, desert willow, English hawthorn, goldenrain tree and silver linden.

Trees resistant to deer: ash, cotoneaster, ginkgo, hawthorn, magnolia, oak, pine and smoke tree.

Trees that grow well in heavy clay and/or alkaline soils: American sweet gum, Amur maple, catalpa, crabapple, flowering pear, ginkgo, hawthorn, linden, paperbark and red maples, white fir and strawberry tree.

Trees for small spaces (height 25 feet or less; width 12 feet or less): Evergreens include Alberta and Colorado spruce, American arborvitae, deodar cedar, Japanese red pine, Scotch pine, dwarf Western red cedar and winter’s bark. Deciduous trees include Chinese fringe tree, desert willow, dwarf crape myrtle, purple leaf plum, serviceberry, smoke tree and star magnolia.

Fruiting trees with beautiful pink and white spring blossoms include various species of apple and crabapple, cherry, pear and plum. Other pretty spring-blossom trees include star and tulip magnolia, and dogwood species.

Trees with beautiful fall foliage include maples, white oak, Chinese pistache, redbuds, dogwood, ginkgo, sour gum, birch and Japanese persimmon.

A helpful local resource for selecting and planting trees is the “Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley: Ornamental Trees and Shrubs” (2011).

Julius Morton would be pleased to know that Arbor Day is now celebrated throughout the world. The nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation was established in 1972 with a mission “to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.” The foundation’s conservation efforts and educational programs perpetuate a concept put forth by Morton almost 150 years ago: “Each generation takes the Earth as trustees.”

Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, teacher and writer. Email her at Rnowak39@gmail.com. For more about gardening, visit her blog at http://blogs.esouthernoregon.com/theliterarygardener/.