Need trees to line a very long driveway.

ls497October 16, 2006

We're on 8 acres of land on a flag shaped lot, so our drive is long. The drive is full sun, southern exposure. I prefer something that is fast growing. I don't want evergreens. I saw that Lowes was selling maples (not sure of what type) for $10 each and I considered that. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions.


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Consider this - if you do a monoculture planting, and then a specific disease or pest arrives/appears - like chestnut blight, Dutch Elm disease, emerald ash borer, bacterial leaf scorch, sudden oak death etc. - then all your trees may suddenly or progressively decline and die off. I'm currently seeing nice big 30-50 yr.old pin oaks all around my town(almost a monoculture planting in residential & municipal settings) succumbing to a double whammy of bacterial leaf scorch and heavy infestations of horny stem & branch galls.
Better to do a mixed planting, and in groups, though I suppose if you're looking for an 'allee' effect, trees with similar growth habits would be called for.

I've done a mixed planting of oaks(, scarlet, bur) pecans, and hickories along either side of my 800+ ft driveway, with redbuds, hawthorns, pawpaws, yellowwoods, crabs, and other smaller ornamental flowering trees interspersed in small groupings between the (ultimately) larger trees.

Maples would certainly be fairly fast-growing, but so are most oaks, in their juvenile stage.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 12:51PM
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leslies(z7 No VA)

American elm would make a beautiful and classic "allee." On 8 acres, you could also plant other trees not specifically lining the driveway.

Linden and laburnum have been used in some famous settings as "allee" trees.

Here is a link that might be useful: Barnsley's laburnums

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 4:06PM
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I have to second lucky's post on monocultures, it's a very bad idea. Not only do you have an issue with airborne diseases and insect spreading, but most of America's main street allees of Elm fell prey to DED because of root grafting - spread the disease from tree to tree.

Besides that, as a designer, I can't stand when people line driveways and cut their properties up like that, generally it looks like you don't own anything past the trees. It works ok in conjunction with other tree groupings around and related to it.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 7:28PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

I'll join the chorus to avoid monocultures. This is a great opportunity for you to plant a really great group of trees. Pick some from various categories:
maples: red, sugar
oaks: white, scarlet
spring flowers: cherry, crabapple
summer flowers: Goldenraintree, sourwood
great fall color: Tupelo, Serviceberry, the maples and oaks

With a good variety, not only will you avoid the disease issue, but you will have a more interesting landscape.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 12:09AM
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If your trees are not at least 60 feet away from the driveway I would stay away from planting maples trees.

One thing you might consider planting is a mixture of ornamental cherry, Peach (The ornamental, Corinitian Pinks are pretty,) and maybe the Aristocrat flowering pear.(definately not a good idea to plant the Bradford pear. Stick with the better structured and stronger limbed cultivars of flowering pears.)

Then maybe adding lower growing, under canopy, summer flowering arrangements scattered along and between the line of taller spring blooming ornamental trees.

Even though these ornamental trees have a shorter life span than the taller oaks and such tree varieties, the awe inspiring show they put on in certain seasons could far out weigh any concerns for having to replace them say in in 15 to 25 years.

One other note to consider is to think twice before planting a Yellowwood tree near a driveway or where they will shade an area where people walk. Even though Yellowwood trees are a hard wood tree. They can be quite brittle and storms which blow through can easily damage their heavy branches causing them to potentially fail, blocking traffic, falling on and damaging traffic or parked vehicles and people walking along and under the canopy.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 2:56PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

luckyp - any chance you could post photos of what you've done? I have a similar situation, but can't visualize what this mixed planting would look like. Do you know of any websites that would feature a driveway like this?

It's easy to picture parallel graceful trees lining the drive. But how do you space mixed trees? In clumps? In rows? Just wherever?


    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 4:08PM
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Thanks for the thoughts & the good advice. The warning against planting a monoculture for fear of risk of a disease attacking all oft the trees at once makes sense & I'll have to think about that. As far as design goes, I tend to like the "allee" (I learned a new word)look, even if may be boring to many. I do, however, also like the idea of a mixed planting, but that seems like a greater effort than I feel comfortable handling as a DYIer, and it seems like it would be much more expensive. (My driveway is several hundred feet long.) We're going with the mixed plantings and diverstiy around the more immediate area of our home - so it won't all be boring! ;o)

I'll ditto gottagarden - do you have any photos of a mixed planting lining a driveway? I'm also having a hard time envisioning it.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 7:03PM
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katrina1 - If your trees are not at least 60 feet away from the driveway I would stay away from planting maples trees.

Is this because of how big they eventually get? Would you caution against this with other large shade trees as well?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 7:06PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

I don't know about maples but I know that silver maples are to be avoided. Red maples are nice but the root systems are very shallow and agressive. Silver maples tend to fall apart later on when they're large. They are not what I'd plant near the house, lawn, garden. I'd plant red maples if I had acres of land to create "urban forest" far away from the house, etc.

I have several maples on my lot, 2 different varieties of Shantung Maples and one Caddo maple (variant of southern sugar maple). I haven't heard or read anything about their root system causing any problems like the two I mentioned above.

Japanese maples would be awesome to plant underneath larger trees for added colors in the fall!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 7:33AM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

How about sycamores? Fast growing, beautiful bark, stately outline, smell wonderful. That's what I now wish that I had planted.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 7:44AM
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I'm not sure I'd uniformly consider planting a single species a bad idea - it would depend a lot on the choice. FWIW, an allee of the same tree lining a long drive is a very striking design statement and reads much better than a mixed grouping.

I'd consider some type of hornbeam: in general, very hardy, tough trees that tolerate a range of planting conditions including poor soils and urban pollution and are not prone to excessive disease or insect problems. A number of species to choose from, including the native, Carpinus caroliniana, however the European hornbeam, Carpinus betulus, seems to be most tolerant of adverse conditions and the least affected by pests and diseases. The columnar forms make particularly good street trees or privacy screening and are often pleached or hedged in European settings with little fear of some plague wiping out the "monoculture" plantings.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 9:47AM
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In my opinion, far too many of the faster growing maple trees are not deep rooting enough. Even though, the faster growing varieties could seem problem free while they were young and on the smaller size, As soon as they grow larger, the close to the surface roots most often present problems of lifting and stress cracking driveways and sidewalks.

By that time the tree usually has grown into a beautiful tree, its beauty makes it very hard to accept the need for taking it out and starting all over again. Such a task, also, can by that time be too expensive; then again, if the removal task is not hired out, the removal process could present as too dangerous of a task for the property owner.

In additon every time a storm blows through, Many of the softwood and fast growing maples begin dropping lots of limbs, which at the very least makes for extra work keeping those limbs cleared away and disposed properly. The same problem also occurs with some hard wood trees whose wood is brittle. Both Cottonwood and Yellowwood trees are particularly risky with this problem, and should only be planted in expansive places where they present less risk to traffic or children and pedestians moving around beneath these trees.

I do agree that the slower growing maples seem to be less of a problem. The Paper Bark Maple is actually very stunning as the setting sun's rays make it's red pealing bark blaze and glow. I do plant both Paper Barks and the slow growing Japanese Maples. Even so, I would not plant a Paper Bark maple closer than 15 feet from a sidewalk or driveway. Most Japanese Maples seem less problematic, and could likely be confidently plant along a driveway if other structures were close enough to provide the shade which most Japanese Maples need.

Columnar growing hardwood trees planted along driveways often look nice. The Horbeam is a great columnar hardwood tree which should not damage the driveway if planted close enough to make the tree seem to be lining the drive. I think someone in the past told me that Hornbeams are slow growing (Averaging 1 foot a year) hardwood trees, which can be planted next to a foundation without the roots doing damage. You could also, consider smaller ornamental trees which develop deep or fine surface roots and do not grow tall enough for any potentially storm broken branches to damage people or vehicles moving along or parked below.

The ornamental fruit trees mentioned in my first post are seasonally very beautiful and deep or fine rooted, sun loving cultivars. They are fairly fast growers and yet upright enough growing for them usually not needing much pruning up to allow for ground clearance.

Since you only have around 100 feet of length in driveway, planting such trees would allow for planting more variety. If you plant large slow growing hardwood trees. The long time they take growing to maturity can be a difficult wait. There will, also, be a tendency to plant them too close together. Most hard wood trees grow very tall with widely spreading canopies. Most moderatly fast growing Oaks, Pecans, and Maples, Hickory, or Tupelos spread ultimately from 40 - 80 feet wide depending on the culitvar you plant. Along your 100 foot long drive only 2 or three of those large trees should be planted. Even if you fill up the space between them with understory trees, the undertory trees could die early from exposure stress, due to the overstory trees taking so long to grow tall enough to shade them properly.

Of course you could plant a couple deep rooted larger hardwood trees and fill up the space among and between them with faster growing, flowering, ornamental fruit trees which grow well in the direct sun they would get while you waited the 20 to 25 years for the deep rooted hardwood trees to spread far enough to provide true understory trees their needed shade. By that time the, sun loving, flowering, and fruitless ornamentals would have reached a degree of maturity where they need to be removed. That need, most likely, would be just in time for the then current property owner to replace them with some true shade loving understory trees, like dogwoods, stewartias, and other such flowering ornamentals.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 2:25PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

All the commonly planted trees are shallow rooted. Maples can be large species or small, Japanese maple a very popular example of a small maple that wouldn't even read as connected to the driveway if planted 60 feet away.

The way to combine designed appearance with variety is to plant drifts of trees (where space permits), same as with shrubs and flowers. This is generally better than all one kind or one of each. 4 maples and then 6 serviceberries and so on, instead of the formality of one kind of tree all the way up or the disorder of every specimen a different kind.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 6:50PM
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There are so many well thought out and informative responses here - I really appreciate all of your replies!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 11:15PM
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adichristi(z 6)

(The warning against planting a monoculture for fear of risk of a disease attacking all of the trees at once makes sense & I'll have to think about that.)

I would also think about winter storms. We had a October Surprise here in WNY and it did a lot of damage. Trees weeped for a long time. I had our window open a crack (I just could not believe that every second you heard a snap, crack, the trees were crying) that night, and my husband had to shut the window. It was a SHOCK the next morning!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 1:23AM
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An "allee" is a rather formal afair and will look like a nightmare if you plant a hodge-podge of different trees.

The "drift" idea is the best if you have the room for informal plantings. I believe that idea requires quite a bit of space, seventy feet or more on either side of the drive. I suspect the space is too narrow and allows for only one formal row on each side.

Pick two, to perhaps four, stately tree species and alternate with them the length of the drive. Space atleast forty to fifty feet apart.

I'm not from your area but sycamores sound like a good suggestion. They drop big leaves in the fall but even this will look nice if the trees are spaced evenly down the allee.

In the long run, white oaks will give the most pleasure.

Maybe willow oaks alternating with white oaks, scarlet oaks and sycamores? Perhaps dawn redwood, bald cypress, or ginko could be substituted for one of the species.

Maples(down here)are rather weak trees.

Here we have live oak allees dripping with spanish moss. Often, after the oaks have been given a few years, small dogwoods and redbuds are planted as an understory.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 7:13AM
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497....If you are going to look at the worse scenario, then you will be constantly worried that something is going to happen to your line of trees.

Look at other long driveways....on they have a mish-mash of trees lining the drive up to their homes...or do they conspiculously plant a line of the same type, same height, same girth.......and be able to treat one and all very well. If something attacks one tree, it is more than likely able to be replaced quickly and easily...with no outward effect on the line of trees.

Here a tree, there a tree, everywhere a tree, tree....and not one the same. Kindof like a chocolate bar I used to like..E P D...Every Piece Different.
What a mess of a sight that would be if lining a long driveway.

The old version of Lombardy Poplar used to be seen widely doing a bangup job of delineating long driveways....but they got a bad reputation for their need for water and would rip up a driveway to get to it.

New versions of the old reliables are quite different nowadays, science has got into the picture.
Do talk to somebody in the know so that a proper, formal line of trees can be chosen to enhance your property.....and not make it look like a garbage dump.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 2:06PM
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And what looks even worse than "a garbage dump" is an allee of like trees with on missing right in the middle because of some reason or another. Maybe a truck backs into it or something like that.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 2:27PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Absolutely. And there is no reason for groupings of several each of multiple kinds of trees to take up a bunch more room than two uninteresting rows of one kind of tree - the space required is a factor of how large-growing the trees chosen are. Two rows of American elms, silver maples or other trees that grow 100 ft. across are going to take up much more room than groupings of myriad other kinds of trees that have mature spreads considerably less wide.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 3:23PM
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There are so many ways to handle this--what you have is a great opportunity to create something wondeful.

Let me just tell you about two large old estates in this area. One is Morven Park in Leesburg, VA. They have a very long drive that is so wonderful my wife and I like to go there just to walk the drive. It is mostly Norway spruce (I know you said no conifers) alternating with sugar maples--boy you should see this in October--the colors of the maples against the Norway spruce! Wow!

The other is Oatlands, a few miles south of Leesburg on US Route 15. It is a fairly long drive--not so long as Morven Park, and it is lined with a mixture of hardwoods. I am not sure I remember all the species, but there are a lot of sugar maples, a good number of oaks, mostly northern red, some ash trees and some tulptrees (tulip poplars to some people). I don't go quite so crazy about this drive as the one at Morven park, but it is really wonderful to walk down and see not only the variety of kinds of trees, but each specimen of each different species is different in the way they are growing.

Now I understand that an allee of all similar trees can have a special appeal, but I would not spend much time walking these drives if all the trees were alike (if you have seen one of the trees you have seen them all). Some kinds of trees have a good deal of genetic diversity within the species, Norway spruce and red maple being the two most outstanding I know for this, so a drive lined with one kind of tree can provide good diversity, but if you could see the examples I have told you about down here in VA I think you might want to emulate one or the other.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 12:41PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Formal planting effects like two rows of one or two kinds of trees really only jibe with compatible architecture and settings. Even when a long drive through two rows of sameness leads to a suitably large house the effect is imposing or impressive more than pleasing - unless one is pleased by their place having such an effect.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 10:33PM
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A few years ago I had the same decision to make, in this case replacing an allee of declining crabapples. I went with the mixed planting, selecting small to medium-sized trees with flowering and/or fall color interest (including species of serviceberry, crab, fringe tree and maple). If a calamity strikes one of them I can replace it without leaving a gap as obvious as if I had to replace a large oak, or a mature Paulownia (as in the case of Longwood Gardens' famous Paulownia allee, a maintenance nightmare which has been/is being replanted).

The country kennel we use has lined its very long driveway with an allee of Bradford pears. Now there's a design statement. ;)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 9:00AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Ironic that a kennel would plant a quantity of a tree that reeks when in flower.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 3:06PM
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adichristi(z 6)

Is497, We have these in our back yard and once they get started, there's no stopping them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fast growing

    Bookmark   June 30, 2007 at 11:18PM
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I'd suggest alternating White Oaks (Quercus alba) with either Swamp White Oaks (Q bicolor) or Chestnut Oaks (Q montana).

I'd avoid Willow Oaks (Q. phellos) myself. Although fast growing, the wood is brittle and easily storm damaged, particularly by snow and ice.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 9:41PM
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Is497, It has been around 8 months since you posted your question; by now you must have chosen what you wanted to plant. I am interested, if you would like to post a response, which describes what trees you planted.

I promise not to to complain, if for some reason I do not agree with your choice. Hopefully others will be just as respectful if you do share that info.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 2:52AM
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Good question, Katrina. I'm curious too. No criticism.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 10:51PM
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Update? We will be facing the same decision in MN and I'd love to hear your thoughts and see pics. TIA.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 11:02PM
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Is497, I would also love to hear how this turned out as we are looking to line our 400' driveway with trees as well this spring, but we only have a 25' width to work with. All these postings have been super helpful.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 3:13PM
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My driveway is only 200' long but I too am looking to cut down my ugly 65' high pine trees and plant some nicer looking trees. The pine trees have dead branches all the way up until you reach the very top and grow in all directions. I cut trees down to put the driveway in when I built the house and that is why the branches are dead from being shaded by the other trees. I live in south New Jersey. I was going to plant poplars because I know they grow straight up but I don't know how wide they get. I was thinking about 6 trees per side. My driveway is 18' wide.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 7:22PM
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Just noticed this post because I was looking for good trees to plant an allee. I strongly recommend against the London Plan tree. They suffer from some sort of fungus that leaves the leaves disfigured. Often, the leaves begin dropping as early as Memorial Day. They also have no fall color and are messy trees. Finally, they are apparently one of the worst trees when it comes to pollen production.

I was thinking of Amelanchier "Autumn Brilliance." I just don't know if, when young, the tree branches are just too low. Perhaps Red Maples would be better.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 11:27AM
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I second, very strongly, the above comment about Plane trees. The disease is anthracnose.

There was some discussion of the merits of an alle and problems with monoculture. There is nothing wrong with an allee as long as it fits your tastes and landscape. They need not be the ultra formal European Alles of Versailles et al.

Nor do they need to be a monoculture. You can have a mixed alle of complementary trees. To make it more formal, make sure that you pare up the trees with the same species on the opposite side of the allee. For example a line of trees like this. Incense Cedar, American Linden, English Oak, European Linden, Yellowwood, Red Oak, Repeat as needed. The repetition in the line and on opposite sides of the drive would give the viewer the idea of the allee but also have the variety of form and species that would avoid the monoculture problem.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 6:12PM
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