Tree for Wet Area
Hi, I am new to this site and would appreciate tree advice and opinions please!
We have an underground spring in the rear corner of our backyard that causes ~3-4" of standing water on ~10' x 20' area from November - July. We live in a very wet, rainy climate, and have very poorly draining clay soil. After seeing only a very minor, temporary improvement in drainage from thatching, aerating, and amending soil with lime, etc, it seemed the results weren't worth the cost/labor.
We had a HUGE, beautiful weeping willow ~40' from the spring removed last summer, due to old age and a large hollow in it's trunk that became home to raccoons. The WW helped ALOT with the water issue, but cons were periodic expensive trim costs (it shed debris on our neighbor's garage - previous owner planted it only ~4-5' from the property line), and the habitat/travel route it provided coons. Other minor cons were the mildewy/moss effect it had on everything near it - shed roof, fence, etc.
Previous owner put in ~180' of french drain at least 10-15+ years ago, which according to a neighbor starts at the spring, but it seems partially clogged - water comes out of it at the street, yet it's just not taking up the water from that back corner like it used to. It's possible that WW roots and/or clay soil have increasingly clogged sections of it over time - old WW was only ~5' from it's ~1/2 way point from head to outlet, plus it's buried under 3' of clay soil (!!!). Due to costs, labor, etc, we don't want to install a new french drain, or dig up the existing one to unclog/repair it. I fear a swale/dry creek bed/pond to collect the water might attract coons - in addition to the coons prompting the tree removal, they also prompted ripping down beautiful grapevines from our arbor - we've learned the hard way to think of deterring them when making backyard choices.
So, we're considering putting in a new tree, this time much closer to the underground spring (~10' from it, which would also be right in the middle of where the water pools). New tree would be offset from each fence line ~10', and only nearby building would be neighbor's metal shed ~15-20' away. Area gets a good amount of sun (when it's not raining!).
1) Ability to absorb water & tolerate poorly draining clay soil
2) Maintenance costs - easy DIY trims or better yet none at all!
3) Appeal to critters, primarily raccoons (no fruit trees, prefer minimal hollows/habitat appeal, etc)
5) Roots clogging french drains - although not sure whether to even care about this, since I don't know how well the existing french drain is still functioning/where it's clogged - new tree would be near head of drain, whereas old tree was ~1/2 way between head and outlet of drain
6) Mossy/mildewy debris yuck on everything in it's path
7) Size/looks/privacy - prefer looks of deciduous trees, but screening view of partying neighbors with a tree at least 25' tall & at least 10' wide for as much of the year as possible is ideal
Despite the negatives we had with our old WW, we saw it's water absorption abilities and are therefore considering another one. Other ideas we've heard for water absorption are River Birch, Oregon Ash, Red Maple, and several others. How soon do you think a WW would develop hollows big enough to appeal to critters? I'm not sure the age of the old willow, but I'm guessing at least 20+ years. Our arborist thought it was 65 years old, and if this is accurate, that means the hollows for critters didn't develop til it was ~50 years old - and I'll be dead by then!
Thoughts/opinions on our best approach? Please and thank you!