Grand Forks Herald Spring Home Improvement: Trees add options, beauty and dimension to landscaping

Whether you provide a shaded spot to relax on a hot summer day, add a touch of color to the garden, or protect a patio from the wind, trees are an essential part of landscaping.

But before homeowners weigh these considerations, they should test the soil in their garden first, said Scott Kiel, landscape architect at the All Seasons Garden Center.

“The best thing you can do before you plant a tree is to take a soil sample so that you know what is down there so that you can find the right tree in the right place,” said Kiel. For example, many customers want to plant maple trees in their yards but are unaware that maple trees need iron. If they don’t have it in their soil, the leaves of the maple tree will turn yellow in summer.

“To get the green, they have to cast irons,” he said.

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Once homeowners know the soil type of a yard, they can decide whether to look for shade trees to decorate the landscape or trees to act as shelter, landscape architects say.

For example, if adding decorative features to the garden is the most important role a tree plays in a client’s landscaping, Sarah Krogfoss, landscape designer at Tim Sheas Nursery and Landscaping, recommends planting an ornamental flowering tree, such as the crab apple tree, which is white in the spring , will produce showy flowers, but will not produce fruit that will fall and make a mess in the yard.

The crab apple tree is a great choice for a front yard because, in addition to being decorative, it won’t grow any taller than 25 feet tall and 15 to 18 feet wide, Krogfross said.

Another option that delivers color is Pink Spiers Flowering Crabapple, Kiel said. The Crabapple variety has fragrant pink flowers with lavender overtones and produces clusters of just one or two pea-sized fruits.

In addition to color considerations, another factor that Kiel customers think about is whether a tree should provide shade.

If that’s the deciding factor, hackberry, linden, and Ohio horse chestnut trees are good choices, Kiel said. Conifers are also an option.

“Evergreens, they have color all year round,” said Kiel. Aside from the traditional evergreen plants, there are other species like the white spruce, which grows up to 12 feet tall, is only 3 to 4 feet wide, and can be tucked into the corner of a house.

The amount of space the tree will take up in the yard is another thing Kiel and Krogfoss recommend to homeowners.

“Most of your trees, when you plant them in the yard, want them to be about 30 feet apart so that they keep their shape,” Kiel said. The crowd of trees will cause them to grow into a tall, narrow shape rather than branching out into a round shape, he noted.

When wind protection is considered, homeowners should know that conifers offer more than some deciduous trees, Krogfoss said.

“If you have wind in the yard and want to sit on the patio, evergreen plants are a better choice,” she said. However, homeowners should keep in mind that evergreen trees drop acids that are acidic and can damage grass. Mulch, spread around the base of the evergreens, will hide the bare spots, Krogfoss noted.

Spreading 2 inch thick mulch over a 2 foot wide perimeter of the tree is a good idea when planting a species of tree. This will reduce the chance of the tree being notched while mowing, Kiel said. The mulch should be spread out to the base of the tree, but not touching it.

Trees aren’t fussy about being planted at a certain time of the year, Krogfoss said

“Anytime is a good time to plant. Spring is great. Fall is great. You can plant in summer, too,” she said.

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