Tree recommendation please!

ostrich(3a AB)May 24, 2012

Hello everyone,

I am wondering if you can help me with this. My backyard is about 45' wide and 40' deep, and it faces south so it gets plenty of sunshine. Though it's not that big, I am trying to put in some trees there for privacy as it is surrounded by other properties. Anyway, at the far end of the yard, I would like to have some trees that would provide both privacy and winter interest. The landscapers that I am working with suggested that in one corner, I put in a Colorado Spruce, and then at the other corner, a Bakerii spruce. Then somewhere in the middle, they suggested a Mountain Pine.

Would these guys be too big for that space? Also, would it look nicer to have a deciduous tree in the middle? If so, what would you suggest?

I also read that Mountain Pines have beetle problems in Alberta - is that true please?

Thank you so much for your advice!

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I thought the bakerii spruce only grew a few inches per year? It would make a great specimen, but it would be a long time before it gave privacy. The blue spruce is a nice tree but it does get big and since they look strange unless you leave the branches on right to the ground, it will eat up a lot of your backyard, so depending on what you plan to do in your yard that might be an issue.

And just to make things more complicated... people are usually only out in their yards in the warmer weather, which is when deciduous trees are in leaf so provide good privacy. So you might not want to exclude deciduous trees... plus most get tall trunks so you can use the area underneath the canopy too.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 12:24AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Thank you, don555!

I think that the spruce will look very nice there - along the fence that sits between my house and my neighbours.

It's the one in the middle that I am not so sure about. The windows from my living room and nook look out to this yard, so even privacy during winter is important. My neighbours have put in only deciduous trees in his backyard, so for most of the year, we are just looking at sticks that do not provide any privacy! That's why the landscaper recommended an evergreen, but I am just not sure about the Mountain Pine?

Anyway, if I go with a deciduous tree in between the 2 spruce trees along the fence at the far end of the yard, what would look nice there? Do you like Tartarian Maple? Another landscaper highly recommends it, but this one that I am working with states that he has not used it before so he would not guarantee it...!!! What about Hawthorn (Snowbi rd or Toba)? And don't get me started, he actually recommended a Schubert chokecherry there at one point.... I almost fell off my chair....!!!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 12:34AM
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If year-round privacy is important, then yes, it's got to be evergreen. I don't have experience with the mountain pine, I've only got two lodgepoles that I planted 20 years ago... boring perhaps, but fast growing and Alberta's provincial tree. If I were to do it over again, I might opt instead for one of them to be either an eastern white pine or even better a Swiss stone pine... the eastern white would grow faster and give privacy sooner. Lodgepoles are the toughest, but with a bit of care other pines should do well. Sorry, can't offer any advice on the mountain pine specifically.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 1:57AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

LOL..I can see that you almost did.
I know why they said so,..that one is the easiest and fast growing tree.

Toba I always wanted,..think it's the nicest of the Toba.
Perhaps little leaf Linden, I have and love it, ..but it's growing more to a vase shape.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 2:00AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Thanks, konrad!

The landscaper is trying to talk me into doing the Mountain Pine - does anyone have any opinion on this evergreen please?

If I go deciduous in the middle, how about a Thunderchild crabapple?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:28PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Oooh! Look, I finally found a photo of Mountain Pine online:

Would this look nice between a Colorado Spruce and a Bakerii Spruce?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:56PM
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Just a thought.........

Maybe someone with more expertise than me can comment on the Pine Beetle problem on it's way to Alberta ?

I personally would choose something else, but I haven't kept up with the news on how far the beetle has made it so far.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 11:23PM
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I am just north of Grande Prairie and a subdivision in the south end of GP was logged a few years ago due to pine beetle. -- but it really would look nice between your two other trees.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 12:58AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Thunderchild is nice but all apples are prone to get fire blight,..not a sure thing.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 1:21AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Thanks, nutsaboutflowers, CLBlakey and konrad, for your input.

I actually had a chance to visit some local nurseries this weekend to look at some real trees (not just online photos!). I really like the Mountain Pine - it is nice!

So I have decided to go with the Mountain Pine, in between the two difference spruce trees. I think it will look nice.

On the side of the yard, I was going to go with a crabapple.... that was, until I saw the hawthorns this weekend! I really like them!!! So I think that i will go with a Toba Hawthorn on the side instead.

BTW, I found it interesting that the local retail nurseries actually sell the trees at the same price as my landscaper. I thought he was going to give me a break with those trees, but I guess not! Sigh....

Thanks again, everyone!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 1:42AM
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I just remembered my aunt and uncle have a pine and they bought a patch to put on the tree to keep the pine beetle away. It apparently sends a signal or smell telling the pine beetles this tree is occupied their trees are massive ant they didn't want to lose them. They live in BC where the beetle runs rampant. Not sure what the patch is called though.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 10:57AM
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Yes, there is in a fact a pine beetle pheromone product.

I know for sure Golden Acre has it since I was there yesterday and saw it :)

Having said that I have no idea if the beetles have made their way to Calgary. That's a lot of plain for the beetle to fly to make it here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mountain Pine Beetle Repellent

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 4:50PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Hello everyone,

As I am trying to finalize my choice of trees, I think that I have had a change of heart... I kept thinking about what don555 said about the spruce taking up a lot of space as the widest branches will be close to the ground. So I am hoping that if I can show you a photo of my backyard you can help me make up my mind:

As you see, this is a pretty square yard with lots of sun (south facing) and it needs something to provide privacy around the year. The width is just under 45' and the depth is similar. The current design is to have a Fat Albert spruce in the far left corner, then the Mountain Pine in the centre, and the Bacheri spruce in the far right corner, next to a stone patio there. In between the trees, I plan to have shrubs and perennials in a flower bed with a curved edge.

What if I do not have the Fat Albert on the left, but rather, put in a deciduous tree to provide some canopy and shaded area for a hosta garden? Under the tree, I can even place a garden bench there for a private seating area.

If so, I would still keep the Mountain Pine in the middle. However, should I swap out the Bacheri on the right with a Fat Albert? OR would that be too big in the end?

Alternatively, I can keep the Fat Albert on the left and then Mountain Pine in the middle. Then I will switch out the Bacheri spruce on the right with a small ornamental tree that will then provide some canopy by the patio on the far right. While this sounds nice, I actually quite appreciate a more open area by the patio, so when there is a gathering, then the tree branches will not be in the way. What do you think?

The other question is, what ornamental tree would you put there in the far left corner? So far, I have been thinking of a multi-stemmed tree that will provide a nice "architectural" shape with its stems and branches during winter, and/or something that will provide a lot of interesting colours during the growing season. These are the ones that I am considering:

1. Tartarian Maple "Hot Wings"
2. An ornamental Mountain Ash
3. Crabapple (would a Dolgo be too big there?)

The neighbours to the right has planted 3 columnar aspens there. The ones to the left has just planted a Bailey's Select Chokecherry. I am not sure what the neighbours on the other side will plan to plant there.

Sorry that this is so long and I am rambling a little bit... I would very much appreciate your thoughts on this! Thank you in advance for your advice.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 7:29PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Oops! I forgot one important piece of information - as the yard slopes down, water collects along the fence at the far end of the yard, so while there is no standing water, the soil there is moist. So the trees there need to be able to put up with moist soil. Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 7:34PM
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I would put a laurel leaf willow in the moist spot. They grow very fast, they leaf out very early and are the last to drop.

I have a Bakeri spruce, they are quite slow growing. If you want something faster that's also very blue try Hoopsii. They also get quite tall but not too fat.

Dolgos get really, really big even in Calgary. Also, Dolgo actually makes real crababpples - is that what you want?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 1:53PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Personally, I wouldn't put a laurel leaf willow in your yard. For one, they are quite large at maturity and will hog a lot of room. Two, they frequently drop branchlets and can be messy. Three, very invasive roots. Maybe it would be far enough from the house, but maybe not. There are nicer trees that would be better suited to city lot. Just my opinion.(and I like willows! But I have a farm yard)

I have planted both a "Hot Wings" Tartarian maple and a American Mountain Ash. I've very pleased with both..but they are fairly new so I can't say anything about them at maturity. One thing to think about is that I find the mountain ash to be fairly slow growing. If you want a privacy screen/shade sooner, the maple would be a faster grower. But the Mountain ash certainly has some nice year round interest, and I think both of those trees have "good architecture" or bones.

Is the moist spot well drained, or heavy clay? If it is pretty well drained, I would think that the tartarian should do fine, being a maple. Maybe it would even do fine if it isn't super well drained. Hopefully someone with more knowledge about this will chime in...I have a dry, poorly drained yard! I have no idea about water tolerance in mountain ash's.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 3:17PM
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Laurel leaf doesn't get really big here. Never heard about the invasive roots, which should definitely be considered.

There's a guy with one a few houses down from my old house and it's beautiful.

The only mountain ash I would grow here is Showy. Every other variety seems to have some dieback here. Columnar also is quite hardy here but they're extremely slow growing.

Not sure how the maple will fare here, but they're always worth a try.

The problem with Calgary is our elevation, chinooks and our rather alkaline environment.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 4:27PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

The Laurel leaf would probably get large if it got enough water is for sure completely hardy here.

I have never had any dieback in my american mountain ash, but we don't get the chinooks, so that may be the difference.

The tartarian maple is also definitely hardy here..and the added benefit of this one is that it is quite alkaline won't get the iron chlorosis you would get in an amur maple.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 5:06PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

shazam and weeper, thank you for your advice.

Weeper, do you have photos of the Tatarian Maple "Hot Wings" please? Do those red samaras (sp?) really look fiery red as they do in the online photos? Do they stay that way (i.e. bright red!) for as long as 6 weeks as claimed? How do you enjoy those spring yellow flowers, are they really not that outstanding? I would love to hear your first hand experience on this tree.

Shazam, your point about the soil being alkaline in Calgary is a great one. So does it mean that we don't do very well with acid loving plants/shrubs here?

Thank you again for all your help!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 8:38PM
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Yeah, Calgary doesn't do well at all with plants that need acidic soil. Calgary is so alkaline that our rain is naturally alkaline! We need more smokestacks! :)

So don't try growing blueberries here :)

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I'd also recommend a Showy Mountain Ash; they're only moderately-sized trees (good for the typical urban lot), and they're great bird trees. Plus, they do add year-round interest with nice flowers in the spring and pretty red berries in the fall (if they aren't all eaten first by the birds).

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 9:33PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

davidcalgary29, I appreciate your input. Actually, the more I look at Showy Mountain Ash, the more I like it.

How does it differ from the other Mountain Ash trees? For Calgary, is that the best Mountain Ash to go with?

Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 12:18AM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

ostrich, I'll have to take note this summer whether the samaras stay bright red for 6 weeks or not..that sounds right to my memory - it was over a month for sure.

Right now the tree just looks green, I can post a pic of it anyway if you like though. I'll take a picture later this summer once it produces seeds again though. There are a couple of pics on daves garden(if you google the tree, it'll come up) that look very much like mine did last summer.(online pics are accurate) The samaras really are that red - very, very red!
The flowers are not significant...pretty well just like on any maple, not very noticeable, and not one of its selling features. It does have very nice fall color, though. Shades of orange, red and yellow all coming through.

Arghh, I keep writing "tartarian", LOL, it is all my plant tags fault..apparently the nursery doesn't know how to spell what it is selling!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 12:30AM
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Are you feeling daring?

If you can find them here, try a columnar norway maple. I've seen them in Brooks and Medicine Hat and they're spectacular.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 11:57AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

weeper, I would love to see the Tatarian Maple Hot Wings! You know, it's funny because up until recently, I also spelt it as "Tartarian" too! LOL

shazam.... this time, I may not feel so daring! LOL! I think I will be happy with the Showy Mountain Ash.... we shall see! :-) Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 1:30AM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

How do you put a picture in here? I know that I knew at one point, but I haven't done it for so long...

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 8:43AM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

Just chimed in for curiosity sake. Just a couple of things I could mention.

Tatarian Hot wings is a maple tree that seeds very easily as do all the maples in my yard. It also sends out suckers. Maybe something you don't want to deal with in a smaller backyard. They drive me bonkers here!

Also, you mentioned you wanted to put a patio in the right corner. Mountain Ash produce the beautiful red berries that also can be a real mess on a patio. My neighbour's other neighbour had one that fell over the fence. She was forever complaining about the berries on her patio, so they finally removed the tree. Same thing with an apple tree.

Myself, I think I would go for something columnar or vase shaped and maybe put in a couple more; at least along the back. :)

My 2 cents, for what it's worth


    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 10:44AM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

PS Weeper, I go through photobucket to post pics. :)

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 10:48AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

weeper, once you have uploaded your picture on Photobucket, it will also give you several choices to embed your pictures online. For this forum, click and copy the "html" link below the picture, and voila! You can then just paste that link in your post and it should work.

Hope this helps (I am only helping you out so that I can see your Tatarian Maple!!! LOL!)

Ginny, thanks for your tip! I must say that I am not a columnar tree fan. Before I moved up to zone 3b, I hardly saw any skinny tall trees like them things but they are just everywhere here! LOL! Now, I probably just offended the columnar fans.... sorry!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 10:16PM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

Me neither but I guess we gotta adjust when necessary. :) I like trees that look like trees and I am the first to admit that I love to sit in this big old back yard and admire these huge, old, wise elms, maples and white spruce. :)But I guess a person would get used to them skinny kids. :) My one neighbour has a rather large columner cedar that looks pretty good. I also like the lilacs around here. Old, clean, and a scent from heaven.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 12:59AM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Well, here she is, looking a bit worse for wear after that wind storm we had yesterday. Also, as you can see from my deer fence that is only semi-effective(see that spruce behind it? Yeah, it's being cut down...was chomped on one too many times), it gets chomped on at times. And it is young and could benefit from some pruning up top, it is kind of congested. And I have NO IDEA what is up with that one droopy branch. It is like it has one weeping branch; it has always been like that. Weird. HOWEVER, I still love it.:P For a maple, it has good multi-season interest, and seems to be tough as nails.

Thanks for the picture help, BTW.

I'm sure Ginny(was it Ginny who said this?) was right about this tree reseeding all over, but I mow all around it, so I never see or notice the seedlings. It has never suckered so far though.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 8:49PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Thank you, weeper!

Wasn't that windstorm just something?! We didn't get much wind as much as rain and thunder - it was quite a light show and the rain was just POURING down. Thank goodness there was no local damage though.

Weeper, the reseeding thing is a bit of a concern.... maybe I should go with the Showy Mountain Ash then! Thank you very much.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 9:59PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

No problem. :) Now you know a bunch of random little bits of info about tatarian maples and other trees!

Yeah, I think with any maple you'll get lots of self-seeding. If a slower growing tree is OK with you, I think the Showy Mountain Ash is a beauty, and very well behaved.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Showy Mountain Ash is a very good tree for Calgary because it resists sunscald very well. Also it's smaller than other mountain ashes.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 11:51AM
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Nora Bryan has an excellent article about some newer tree cultivars that do well here. The Paskapoo Poplar sounds especially good.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hardy trees and shrubs offer drought tolerance along with beauty

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 1:21PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Some people love the Amur Cherry, the bark is a nice bronze color.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 9:06PM
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