Shade tree

Posimoto(5b)July 14, 2013

Hello - I'm looking for suggestions for a fast growing, insect resistant, hardy, large shade tree. I'm looking to shade my front lawn and house and allow grass to grow well under it.

I presently have a Liberty Elm and Dogwood on one end of the yard and a Bradford Pear and crab apple tree on the other end (about 90 feet apart). I would like to plant a new shade tree in the middle of those 4 tree.

Thanks in advance for your help.

This post was edited by Posimoto on Mon, Jul 15, 13 at 6:07

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Posimoto(5b)

I live in Ma zone 5b thanks

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 9:21PM
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edlincoln(6A)

White pine, although grass doesn't grow well under it.

If you want to stick with the fruit tree these, you could use Paw Paws, but they are somewhat small.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 4:29PM
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Posimoto(5b)

Thanks for the reply Ed however, I'm not interested in pine or evergreen.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 8:06PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

Keep in mind that all of the characteristics you are looking for are almost impossible to find. Any tree providing deep shade, for instance, will eventually make a lawn impossible. There are a few fast-growing shade trees that provide dappled shade that would permit grass to grow underneath them.

One that immediately comes to mind is the honeylocust. Two common varieties that you will find at a lot of nurseries are Shademaster and Skyline. This species has leaves that provide dappled shade. It turns a nice yellow in the fall.

The elm that you already have growing in your yard is another good choice. The leaves are relatively small and the vase shape makes a lawn viable for many years. Zelkovas are related to the elms and have a similar appearance. Green Vase and Village Green are two of the best cultivars of this species and are commonly found at most nurseries.

I would consider some river birch trees. They are fast-growing and have small leaves. They have nice fall color and beautiful peeling bark. They don't have a huge canopy but their shape would help a lawn grow underneath. You may have room for two of them in your lawn as either a single tree or as a clump. They would get tall fast so they would provide decent shade in a short period of time.

If you want a truly, huge shade tree with a massive canopy just keep in mind two things. One is they don't get that way anytime soon. You're looking at one to two decades for something that is going to shade your house. The other thing to consider is that you will eventually lose your lawn but maybe at this point you could consider a shade garden. There are some varieties that grow very fast though.

Tree that fit this bill include any variety of red maple (October Glory and Red Sunset are common), Freeman maples (Autumn Blaze is common), London Planetrees (they look like maples and have cool bark, many common varieties), Northern Red Oak, Scarlet Oak, and Pin Oak.

As an example of the growth rate you can expect, here is an Autumn Blaze Freeman maple that I planted in my yard in 2002.

Here it is around seven years later in the fall. The lot across the street was cleared and a house was built there if you are wondering why the background is different. The tree has grown substantially since then. So for this species, you would have to wait about a decade to get the results that you are looking for. BTW, my lawn looks great in that fall picture but it's only a matter of time before the shade of the maple will make a lawn impossible. I'm expanding the mulched area each year and I'm growing a bright yellow cultivar of lamium underneath it now which tolerates dry shade.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 9:50PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Grass can grow under fairly large pin oaks. As in, it is not going to be a problem in your lifetime, if ever. In general, oaks seem to be decently fast growers given good conditions, and coexist reasonably well with grass.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 9:58PM
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mrtulin

Tree Oracle and Mad G are much more experienced horticulturalists than I am. However, I'm going to stick out my neck and offer an opinion on a question you didn't ask. I live in MA 5b, too, (Lexington) and I can tell you Bradford Pears have a shorter lifespan than any garden center will admit. That's because The branches are brittle, the crotches are weak, they break and split under snow and ice. Towns and municpalitieis overplanted them, and are just beginning to catch on, and remove them, but usually not before they become an ungodly mess after winters and repeated ice storms.
So.....since three trees can present a pleasing aspect, and losing the bradford pear might give you more room for a large canopy.....or a lovely group of river birches.....maybe you'd consider the prophylactic removal of the pear. Prophylatic removal in that it's branches won't take down another more valuable tree....or (if it is really in the wrong place) a picture window or car roof.
River birches are a lovely choice for New England, I think. Year round interest and graceful form. I love the catkins drooping in the spring time. They actually look better longer than a lot of the more conventional spring flowering trees.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 11:08PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

No expert here at all, but just wanted to share my own experience with a London Plane Tree. My neighbor has one and I really dislike this tree. Although I love some of the mature, really old London Plane Trees that are along Memorial Drive, the bark is so pretty, the one my neighbor has, has never looked very good. The branch structure developed very awkward as well. My biggest complaints are that it develops leaves very late in the season, so that everything else is filled out and green and then here is this LPtree looking dead. Then when it drops it's leaves, they are brown, leathery, ugly and all over a blooming perennial bed. It drops them as it pushes out new leaves. They are 2 or 3x the size of the Maple leaves in the garden and so thick, they create a smothering mass where they fall. They are slow to breakdown into compost and are in general a pain. I'm always pulling them out of everything.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 5:05AM
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Posimoto(5b)

Thanks for the helpful posts. After the advice from above and some more thought maybe it's best to leave the area between the two sets of trees open and plant a Autumn Blaze Maple along the street line similar to Tree Oracle pictures. This way I would have morning/mid-day sun on the lawn and shade in the afternoon.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 8:21AM
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molie(z6 CT)

I will add a "yes!" to those who suggest a river birch. We lost a triple-branched birch in late August, 2011, when hurricane Irene hit.

On 9-13-2011 we had a replacement planted by Broken Arrow Nursery, only this time we chose an 11/12 foot Betula nigra 'Cully' Heritage single trunk tree. It has fantastic coloration and is a very fast grower. Here it is on planting day.

Below is a photo I took today, 7-13-2013. It's now about 20 feet tall. Notice the thickness of the trunk and the spread of the branches.

This photo was taken early in the morning, in the shade, and shows the trunk size relative to the tree height a bit better. It really is a fast grower and lovely in all seasons, especially with the catkins as Idabean said.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 6:24PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I like the Honey locust as suggested by Tree Oracle. I don't have one in my own garden but I see them in many places. The dappled shade, dark branch structure and airy look are things that I really like. Also, the leaves are tiny and all but disappear into the lawn in fall (minimizing the need to rake) after a nice bright yellow display against the dark branches.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 1:52PM
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pixie_lou

Honey Locust was a tree offered by the builder when my subdivision was built in the late 50s. So there are a lot of them in my neighborhood. They are great trees. For all the reasons Bill says. But he neglected to mention the seed pods. Honey locusts spring up everywhere. I'm constant long pulling saplings. Not a problem if you mow. But it is another " weed" in the garden.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 4:29PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

The newer varieties of Honeylocust like the ones I mentioned before do not have the thorns or seedpods like the ones from decades ago. I took some pictures of the ones next to my workplace for reference.

Here's a close-up of the canopy

I think the issue of older vs newer cultivars has turned some off of the London Planetree, too. The newer cultivars have dark green leaves instead of the ugly, light, olive-green leaves of yesteryear. The branch structure of the newer cultivars is greatly improved and they are highly resistant to disease and just about anything else you can throw at them. I will admit their fall color could be improved although I occasionally see one that turns a nice yellow color. I like the seed balls these trees leave hanging in the fall after the leaves have dropped. It reminds me of a big Christmas tree.

A closeup of the canopy

Mad,

I can't agree with you about grass growing under a pin oak. Oaks are notoriously difficult to grow grass under and the way pin oak branches tend to arch down makes it especially difficult under them. One thing I didn't mention earlier is that the structure and height of oak trees make them particular good candidates for pruning a good distance from the ground. If the canopy is high enough, then grass can be grown under them without a problem. Here are some young pin oaks as street trees near my workplace.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 10:13PM
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pixie_lou

Tree - thanks for the update on the honey locust. Now that they come sans seed pods I may consider one for my yard.

As for the London plane - that was another option from our builder. The leaves are late like prairie moon says, but no later than oaks. We always have to rake up the neighbors oak and sycamore leaves long after our own maple leaves fall.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 7:51AM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

For further reference, I took a picture of my Autumn Blaze maple today to show you what it looks like after 11 years. At first glance, it may look similar to the fall picture that I posted earlier but notice that I've had to zoom out substantially to get the entire tree in the picture. It's quite large. Up to this point, the lawn still looks OK underneath the tree. That will change in time, though.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 12:51PM
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Posimoto(5b)

Impressive, thanks for posting. A lot of good info within this threads thanks.

I'm leaning towards the Autumn Blaze or the newer varieties of Honeylocust.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 6:09PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I just wanted to mention that I am still picking out lots and lots of brown leaves from that London Plane Tree in the next yard. Even though the new leaves have been out for awhile, it just keeps raining down dead leaves that it it is slow to shed.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 9:32AM
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diggingthedirt

Please check with the tree forum; there are so many posts about problems with honey locusts that I'd think hard before planting one.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 1:23PM
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arbo_retum(z5 ,WinchstrMA)

you want a FAST growing tree?? I challenge anyone to beat out Acer Negundo. This is considered by some as a
weed tree or junk tree but we grow 2 yellow leaved varieties that we just love. Kelly's Gold (w/ silver stems in winter) and Winter Lightning (w/ neon yellow winter stems).
We have started coppicing them because they get too big for their spot. We cut them back, main trunk and all, to 5' in spring, and they grow, EASILY, 10' that season. You can find them at Broken Arrow. Koelreuteria is also wicked fast growing.
mindy
www.cottonarboretum.com/

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 8:46PM
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mrtulin

In our yard we found the acer negundo split or lost branches in winter storms. It might be a weak wood.
I coppiced it, but that defeats its use as a shade tree.
At least the sitting under it part.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 8:59PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Unless any Acer (maple) is seedless, I would never plant one. Talk about weeds! It is generally true also that fast growing trees (things like Catalpa or Ailanthus come to mind - both weeds by the way) are weak, exactly because the rapid growth doesn't produce dense wood. But if it's not going to be a danger to any structures if it should snap in a storm, then one of the fast-growing types that others have suggested (but definitely NOT Catalpa or Ailanthus!) may be OK.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 7:45AM
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