tree selection advice

c2g(6)July 5, 2011

Since I moved into my house 3 yrs ago, I've been lucky enough to have my yard shaded by an old black oak in an adjacent property. A few weeks ago, a huge branch fell from it and after inspection by an arborist, it was deemed beyond rescue and had to come down. The last pic I took of it (some limbs already removed):

It was cut down last week and now my back yard feels like a desert. I've planted about 6 B&B trees over the past few years, but none are large enough to provide any real shade for that area now or in the near future.

I've been holding off planting a tree in this area of the yard in case I eventually sold the house to someone who wanted to undo everything I've done (ripped out carpath and plantings) so as to use the garage to actually park a car in. I'm not concerned about that anymore and want to plant a relatively fast-growing, large, native this fall.

Open to any other suggestions, but here is what I narrowed my list down to:

- Scarlet Oak

- Sweet Gum

- Black Gum, fruiting female

- Quercus macrophylla (can't find much info on this but it was offered as an option from the nursery I deal with)

- Eastern white pine

My top preferences for the tree would be: growth rate to provide shade, medium to large size, benefit to wildlife, native to PA.


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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Typically fast growing trees are weak wooded, something you definitely don't want for that location.

I've heard Sweet Gum has leader die back even in zone 6, unless you go with the 'Moraine' cultivar.

Black Gum and Bur Oak are both slow growers.

One tree I can think of off hand that may be a good choice is Quercus bicolor.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 2:24PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you're not the french chateau with postaqe stamp lot who already planted 5 more trees than we suggested you do.. when you planted 6????

show us the yard.. and the 6 you already planted ???

frankly... lets start thinking a shade structure.. to give what you already planted .. time to mature ... rather than forcing another tree in there ... but even if you do add another.. its going to be decades before you get any real usable shade ...

pic below for an idea ... of course it does not have to be that big ... nor do you need the sand .. lol .. you would not believe what a 50% shade cloth will do ...


    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 2:45PM
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LOL. Unfortunately it's just a colonial, Ken, but yes... I'm that guy. Here's a pic from about a month ago. Won't even go into what else I planted since then, but don't worry... just small shrubs.

PS - The house to the right is a single (mine's a twin) and only has about 100 or so sq ft more yard space but has about 5 more trees than me. You can barely see in and there's not much ground cover to speak of, but ahh, the birds!

whaas - there's a row of massive sweet gums lining the street 2 blocks away from me. That's where I got the idea. They've been planting swamp white oaks in the woods across the street from me recently - hadn't thought of that.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 3:27PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

can you say pergola

otherwise.. i am questioning your sanity ....

besides.. the pergola will add value to your house ...

right there.. dead center.. under the words ... apple serviceberry ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 4:45PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

How far is the neighbors Maple and White Oak from the proposed site?

The Q. bicolor might be too matchy match with the White Oak.

Do you have a patio where that pink hat is? I'm assuming that is the area you want to shade?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 5:34PM
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How far would it be from trunk of new tree to trunk of that white oak?

How great is your tolerance for a mingled canopy?

You're obviously aware of the October Glory & Autumn Blaze maples, yet they didn't make your preferred list. I'm not pushing them, just curious as to what led YOU not to include red & red/silver hybrid (a.k.a. freeman) maples.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 6:20PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Liquidamber.....sweetgum is one of the most commonly planted trees of 1970s suburban zone 6 st louis. They seem winter hardy. Great fall color. Spiney balls. Who called them mace like....


i keep thinking something thin for that spot. A limbed up bald cypress or metasequoia.

Does the area get a good amount of foot traffic?

Black gum, nyssa sylvatica, is not the fastest growing of trees. Love everyone I have seen but have had difficulty transplanting them. Perhaps the finest natural fall color.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 10:57PM
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I was planning on putting in a pergola at the border of the flagstone patio I put in last year and the yard so I could put the steps in for the kitchen door to walk right out to a sitting area:

But I must say, Ken, I never thought about putting it in the spot you proposed. You got me thinking now... I was going to put a pond in the middle of the trees, but maybe frame out the trees, train some vines, etc. Hmmmm. But still, there's nothing I want more than to plant another tree in that spot. And since I don't plan on leaving anytime soon, my goal was to create a wildlife habitat. I'm big on grabbing a chair and a beer and watching the birds, bugs, and critters go about their business.

whaas - that Autumn Blaze is about 15' from where I'd plant. The pink hat is by the steps that lead down to the basement entrance. I hear what you're saying about matching, but I'm big on oaks. The others I listed are right up there, though. Also considering an eastern red cedar to make it less crowded, even if it won't be the wide shade tree like the other options.

drrich - about 15' to the white oak as well. I'm completely fine with a mingled canopy. In fact, I originally wanted to replace the sweetbay with another canopy tree in the back - I had to move it there during basement waterproofing this past spring. For whatever reason, I'm not big on maples and I figure with two that close I could go with something else.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 10:59PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

I wonder how compacted that soil is since it's in front of a car port, that I assume was used for just that at some time in the past. Probable need to make a few test digs, as it could certainly change things.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 11:21PM
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tornado - One of the nurseries I've bought from has a bunch of black gums around 3" cal. Say they've transplanted a bunch with success in the spring. Decent amount of small kid foot traffic. What do you think about the red cedar idea?

arktrees - I ripped up the carport two years ago. It was the same as the neighbor's in the yard next to mine. The white oak was planted in the former carport area last year and it's doing great. Bought a soil test a few weeks ago and have been meaning to send it in.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 11:28PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Blackgum "CAN" grow faster than you expect, but you can't count on that. I've seen some grow well in excess 2'/yr, whiles others grew 12-15"/year. As for transplanting, it has allot to do with how they were produced at the tree farm. IF they were routinely root pruned to force a much finer root system, and harvested with a larger root ball, then they could transplant much more easily. Same goes for other tap root species. We had a 2" caliper Scarlet Oak planted, and it has done far better than I expected. Many shoots of 18", and almost all normal to large sized leaves. Root pruning and a large root ball are about the only reasons I come up with that would have it growing as much as it did, and with the leaf sizes it produced.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 11:47PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

since you dont mention budget restrictions.. i prefer the bottom pic at the link

frankly .. sweetgum is a horrible tree.. IMHO!!!! [shallow rooted.. subject to failure in storms.. and those freakin gumballs will tear the soles off tennis shoes ...] .... and not really suited to your micro yard ...

let not the tree freaks talk you into some of the nicer golf course or park trees ....

whatever.. you are having a grand time.. glad to have the opportunity to have you look outside the tree box.. into which you have securely duct taped yourself ....

a structure.. will give you immediate shade.. and a comfy living space.. which you will be able to use immediately ... planting a tree.. will give you shade to sit in.. inside the next decade or three ... when exactly do you want to use your yard????


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 9:53AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Are you saying the outter rim of the Autumn blaze canopy is 15' away from where you are planting or the trunk is 15' way? If the latter you don't even have room for a flagpole?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 12:14PM
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Maybe 20'+ so from the trunk.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 2:22PM
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Was taking some pics and figured I'd update this post with my progress. I can pretty much say I'm officially maxed out with trees at this point.

A view of the backyard. Trees planted in past 3 yrs: Dogwood (cherokee brave), quaking aspen, white oak, black birch, serviceberry, sweetbay magnolia (that's been to hell and back), atlantic white cedar.

From L: black birch, serviceberry, small buttonbush, atlantic white cedar, sweetbay magnolia, and a bunch of stone that I have to play around with now that I decided on building a vernal pool instead of a pond with a liner.

The aspen planted last fall (with ghetto staking that I haven't gotten around to replacing yet) in front of planting bed with native perennials and shrubs.

As a side note, I made this perennial bed out of an old stump, along with a viburnum and a couple of chokeberries. The stump has to go soon since the neighbor just discovered it's loaded with termites.

Finally, a pic of the yard when we bought the house in 2008:

Wildflower meadow I planted in the front yard is doing fantastic, as are the white oak, sourwood, weeping cypress, eastern wahoo, and serviceberry I planted. The two main take-homes for me, as far as trees are concerned, are: 1. don't panic during the first year after transplanting as every tree so far has really thrived in the second year, and 2. resist temptation to go large b&b with everything as the potted ones seem to catch up rather quickly.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 4:01PM
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mustard_seeds(4 -Onalaska Wisconsin)

wow, had to do a double take when I saw the 2008 picture. Nice work! Stone pool project sounds interesting!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:59AM
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