Looking for the right trees

Vila-R(5a)August 23, 2012


We are building a new house. So, there will be plenty of space, which we want to make look good and to enjoy it. The house will be East-West oriented in a pie-shaped lot and we will have a relatively big back yard at West and South. I want to create a mini forest in the West part of the yard. I was thinking of planting just pines (I love pine forest), but my husband totally disagrees, so now I am considering other alternatives.

I attached a picture with my project, so you can have a look at it. The space is roughly 35'x45'. I think to place an arbor with climbing roses, which will be the entrance to out "small forest". There will be a very small fountain in the middle, and a small gazebo at Northwest corner. And now - the Trees! I'll tell you what I have in my mind, but I will highly appreciate any comments about my choices. I must now state that I have neither knowledge nor experience with gardening. I just look in Internet and in the tree nurseries around and the more I read the more confused I get.

So far I decided that it will be good to have a round tree, a weeping tree, three columnar trees and a dwarf tree. Our hardiness zone is 5a, so, I was thinking about:

---The round tree - Autumn Brilliance Service Berry;

---The weeping tree - Weeping Katsura;

---The columnar trees - European Beech (Dawyck Gold, Dawyck Green and Dawyck Purple);

---The dwarf - Japanese maple shrub (haven't decided yet which one)

I think to add also some shrubs like Arctic Fire Dogwood and some small evergreens like small Junipers, Pines and Spruces.

Now I need your opinion and advice.

Do you think that a big evergreen is necessary in this case?

Do you think that there could be any conflict among all these plants?

Do you think that instead of three different columnar trees, it will be better if I choose only one kind for all three columnar trees?

What I look for is low maintenance trees (if possible), no poisonous tree parts, resistance to diseases, good matching in terms of ecosystem, and good matching in terms of beauty of course.

I'll appreciate any comments and advice, and I am willing to change any plant in the project with better one if it is necessary.

Thank you in advance for your help!

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Hi. I'm also in zone 5a. We have about 20 Serviceberry Shrubs, beautiful shrubs that do spread but they stay in a nice clump. I call them the 3 season trees because they have the white flowers in spring, berries in the summer (no, we don't get any because the birds beat us to them), and gorgeous fall colour. We also had 3 katsura trees. Where we live is open and windy, the winds are especially strong in winter and we had the trees up before the house. We did lose one of the trees and the tops from the other 2. Now that the house is up the remaining ones are doing o.k. I don't know how hardy the standard would be. I wouldn't even try the Japanese maple here because it wouldn't survive. I went with an Elder instead, I grow Black Lace which looks like Japanese Maple. Personally I like White Pine and we have planted lots of them from seedlings. They grow fairly fast. For a small Juniper, we planted 6 Mint Julep, I love the bright green color. As for the forest, you could go either way. We have planted lots of trees, maple and red oak for fall color, pines, locust for the dappled shade the leaves give and white birch for the color of the bark. We were told it would take 7 years to get the white bark and it did take 7 years! These are just some of what we planted. The ones I regret planting are the Hackberry because it is the most bug infested tree every year we have to spray it. Hope this helps some. Marg

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 9:01AM
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Re Japanese Maples - this surprises me because the Japanese Maple Bloodgood thrives in Zone 5. (but I guess it depends on how close to zone 4 you are).

Vil- First of all, be aware that trees suck up a lot of moisture daily and so plants like roses will compete with them for water. Some trees have far reaching roots and can destroy basement,underground pipes etc...

In planning groupings, always think in terms of 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9.. etc.. For some reason, it's a good feel. Best you choose 2 of something, 3 of the other, and such...

Next, try to envision what those trees will look at ground level from the view of your window, door, porch, patio I suggest taking photos from that point of view, print it and draw directly on those pictures. I take inspiration from such magazines like Garden Design and Fine Gardening to just get a feel of the kind of view that would suit. There should always be one focus tree or grouping of trees. Do you want to create a tight screen or do you want it to feel spacey? Have your privacy and yet not feel as though you have been imprisoned by the trees. Trees need to be planted a certain distance from each other (depends on the tree) in order for them to be healthy. That means if you plant young trees, it will take years to make the place feel like a forest. So add your in between plants for the meantime until the trees are mature. Also, a well planned forestry garden is something that makes you want to discover things. So you walk up a path and then see something else that leads you to yet another surprising corner. - So add the element of surprise. Maybe walk up a path to find a fountain in the corner. or maybe walk up this path and find trilliums and woodland phlox.. or maybe a tiny stream.. - little things like that.

You are correctly looking into tree shapes, behaviour and then reviewing each tree that fit that description. I have to tell you that most trees can be susceptible to diseases. While I love service berries because I do have one, they are susceptible to fire blight and to mildew. Still it's a favorite.

I love Pagoda Dogwoods. You should look into that. Great as an under story tree.

I like pines too because of that refreshing fragrance they give out, but pines when mature can break easily. It also acidifies the grounds around it because of falled pine needles.

One thing you would want to consider is to avoid planting so close to your house that a falling branch or tree trunk can destroy your home. If you must plant a tree close to your house, keep it to a small size.

I also love junipers -the ones that produce those blue berries. They just look like pearls on a tree. Love it.

I also love beech, mature beech have these awesome trunk. Consider too Oak trees for their lovely acorns(if you can stand squirrels and chipmunks). I just love oaks.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 11:37AM
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Hi Marg! It seems you have a marvelous garden with so many beautiful trees! Nice to hear you have 20 Serviceberry shrubs. For me, that means that Serviceberry is a good choice. I have seen many Japanese Maples around, so I am almost sure that it will survive here. But, to be honest, I am not quite sure that I am Z5a. It could be Z5b. Anyway, I prefer to look for plants suitable for Z5a, just in case. I love white birch too. Good to know that fact about the bark. This is the tree I have chosen for the front yard.

Thank you, Ianna, for the detailed advice. When I am planning I try to use the size of a mature tree. I have to say that I am really confused reading all that information about sizes, because the same tree is often shown to be different size in different websites. I know that sometimes the shown dimensions are for 10 year old trees, other times they are for mature trees, but it is still very confusing. Our backyard will be relatively big for an urban area, but pretty small for a real forest. So, I look for small trees, just because I want to plant more than one. I love mighty trees, like big Oaks, but I cannot have anything like that here. The space is limited, but still good enough for my little project.

IâÂÂve been advised to shift to conifers for the narrow forms. I think it was a great idea, because as I said above I love pines, and not only pines but many other conifers. I was thinking that I need deciduous trees to screen the afternoon sun, but I think I will always regret if I donâÂÂt plant at least one big conifer. Now, I am looking for three narrow forms. If I plant conifers, during the fall I will have yellow from the Katsura, red from the Serviceberry and green (and maybe blue-green) in the middle from the three conifers. Still hope to find the right trees.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 6:06PM
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Vila, Perhaps you are looking into US websites for information. I would suggest looking into Sheridan Nurseries online plant guide. This is because tree growth can be affected by the zone its planted in. Meaning if it is planted close to its zonal limit, it would probably grow slower and smaller. Then perhaps Sherican which is in Ontario would provide a more accurate description of the trees.

To get you imaginations going I have the following link of a border which looks definitely forest like.. Just to give you some inspirations in putting together your garden

Here is a link that might be useful: tree border

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 10:57PM
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Most of our trees were bought from a nursery in Toronto. Those trees will not necessarily be hardy here. I have lost 6 crabapple trees and a few some maples. I don't know where you live but I would suggest going to a local tree farm and talking to them about what grows best in your area and also ask what they sell the most of. Another alternative is to go to a Home Show because some of the tree farms set up a booth there and you can talk to them there. If you live in town, you have a better chance of the JM surviving.
Ianna: We are closer to Z4 where we are. I am out in the country, the trees were taken out to make room for farmland, that's why we are planting so many now with more this spring. Since we are out in the open with no shelter from the north winds, the Japanese Maple would not survive here. People in Barrie, 30 min south of us have them and they do well.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 8:22AM
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rosco_p(z6a ont.canada)

Vila: I see Marg and Ianna have already given you some great advice as far as trees go...but don't forget to incorporate some easy maintenance and long blooming Rose of Sharon shrubs as part of your plan. These are a personal favourite of mine and are easy to grow and thrive here in Ontario. Just a thought. Ross.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 1:57PM
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Thank you, Ianna, but it is still confusing. Now I am trying to consider how much space I will need for the Weeping Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonica pendula), because I want that tree to be comfortable for many years. According to Sheridan Nurseries its Height is 300 cm, and the Spread is 200cm. But according to a nursery nearby (Kobes Nurseries) also in Ontario, the same tree is with Height=1500cm and Spread=700cm. So, it looks like these are two different trees, and one of them is several times bigger than the other. Both dimensions are supposed to be for a mature tree.
Thank you for the useful link! It looks so easy when I read, and so difficult when I have to do it by myself, lol.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 12:22AM
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Marg, thank you for the very practical advice! I live in Peterborough. Now I just try to make a research through Internet, and after having an idea what I want I'm planning to go to visit the local tree farms. I have tried the other way - to go first to a tree farm, but I felt lost there. So many plants, an ocean of plants, and I didn't know what to look for.

Ross, I will think about Rose of Sharon shrubs. I am a bit afraid of flowers because of the high maintenance and was thinking to have only these climbing roses that I've mentioned about in my first post, but if you say that the Roses of Sharon are easy to maintain I will definitely consider them.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 12:46AM
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You shouldn't worry about accurateness of sizes because trees will fit themselves into the spaces you've provided.

When you visit nurseries, do keep in mind the tree shapes you would like to have in your garden. Bring your plans with you. This will help to guide you to the choice of trees. I do find it easy when I have a picture in mind and just see which tree fits that description, then researching that particular tree to see if it works. Is the tree shallow rooted for example. Deep rooted trees can anchor themselves well and have no problem reaching their full height. Shallow rooted trees require more surface space and have the disadvantage of toppling over. This happens with regular maples for example and some birch trees. Anyway keep in mind first, shapes of trees and break it down to a list of trees you would like per description. then look into foliage colours because not all trees will flower, next look into flowering stages. Most trees flowers in spring. Service berries flowers the first. Then there are the lilacs, then the cherry blossoms. I would avoid any crab apple trees because these are so susceptible to mildew and other disease. Finally, make your selections. Last, don't worry about errors. Trees can be shaped, can be kept small with selective pruning. It will work out.

Then get back to your drawing board and draw out the location for each tree. Once you are satisfied, go get your trees.

Peterborough is such a lovely place BTW. Congratulations.

Rose of sharon shrubs are definitely easy to maintain. They do reseed though and so that's the only nuisance I find.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 7:52AM
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What do you think about this representation of the project? (I used software to create the image below.) Instead of three columnar conifers, here I used two columnar and one round.

I am also wondering whether I have to plant the weeping tree on the North side (right site in the image), because it will be better screen against the afternoon sun? Serviceberry is not very dense as far as I know. But if I plat the weeping tree there it will not be visible from the South part of the back yard... So, I am wondering which tree is better looking - the Weeping Katsura or the Autumn Brilliance Service Berry?
And what about if I use a purple leaf round tree as I did in the image below - I put a Redbud instead of Serviceberry for more colour.

So, there are two questions:
1. Green or purple round tree?
2. Weeping Katsura at the left or at the right side? (At the left the tree will be more visible from the big South backyard. At the right it will be a good screen against the afternoon sun.)

Thank you for all advice. You're helping me so much!


    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 5:58PM
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