Selecting Fast Growing Shade Trees

Trees are a valuable asset to our home landscape.  In addition to blooms, texture, and fall color, trees also help reduce energy bills by casting shade on our homes during summer.  People are often reluctant to plant large shade trees because they don’t want to wait 20 years or more to enjoy the benefit. Selecting a fast-growing tree therefore is a primary concern. However, I would urge you to read about specific trees that are sold as “fast-growing” and any maintenance problems they may have before purchasing.  Bradford Pear trees are an example of a fast-growing tree, but as most people are aware, they are very short lived, often breaking apart in storms after only 20 years of growth. Other fast-growing trees that should not be planted in home landscapes due to weak limbs or other problems include silver maple, eastern white pine, American sycamore, cottonwood, pin oak, and weeping willow. Continue reading

Plants for Tough Sites: Dry Shade

I grew up with a yard that had a slope facing east, shaded by a mature tree with miniscule amounts of good fertile soil to grow any type of plant. I have also inherited this site in my new garden.  This area is too steep to mow easily and the grass is so thin it’s mostly weeds.  I’m a gardener so I’m not opposed to removing the lawn in favor of perennials and shrubs. Continue reading

Stunning Black Gum for Home Landscapes

As a horticulture nerd, I am always a bit perplexed why we get stuck in tree and shrub ruts. Maples, pears, dogwoods…that’s the tree rut I’m talking about. There are so many other trees worthy of a spot in our yards and landscapes.  Here’s one very much worth it.

Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) displays all the things desirable in a tree for home landscapes: clean, glossy foliage, brilliant fall color, unique thick bark, and few insect and disease problems. Continue reading

A Messy Winter Garden Makes Good Wildlife Habitat

You worked hard turning some of your property into wildlife habitat. You planted nectar and host plants for butterflies and pollinators. Trees and bushes offer shelter and habitat for birds, squirrels, and other small creatures. Perhaps this summer, a box turtle took up residence in your back yard or you heard tree frogs singing in your own trees! Now, after all your hard work, why would you destroy that wonderful ecosystem by cleaning it up for winter?

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