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White Birch - will this grow well near Juniper and Limestone?

Posted by cas66ragtop West Virginia (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 1, 11 at 21:19

Hello. First of all I am not entirely sure this is the best place to post this, so if someone has a better suggestion please let me know.

I live in Martinsburg, WV. Not very mountainous, and not what I would call a very harsh climate at all. I am not much of a gardener, and I need some decent advice.

I recently cut down a few old scraggly locust trees that were dying out. I not only cut them down, but I also pulled out the tree trunks and the major part of the roots. They were in a landscaped area of my yard, this area established long before I moved in. Surrounding these trees are what I believe to be "Spreading Blue Juniper". Underneath all of this is a large seam of limestone. Limestone deposits are plentiful in my area. I assume the locust and the limestone were here long before the house was built, and someone planted the Juniper.

I would like to plant some White Birch or Paper Birch (if there is a difference), but I want to make sure it will grow nicely here. These trees will probably be expensive and I want to make sure they last a long time. I have heard that certain plants can be "poisoned" by limestone. I also wonder what effect the Juniper may have.

If I can't use birch, I would also be interested in Redbud or some other medium sized tree that has nice colorful blooms in the spring.

And if neither tree is reccommended, I have another idea. I also like this certain shrub. I don't know the name of it but during spring and summer the leaves are green, in the fall the leaves turn a beautiful bright red, and they shed in the fall. I have seen these things get pretty big especially if they are planted in groups.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: White Birch - will this grow well near Juniper and Limestone?

Oh another thing to add to this: Last summer we had a terrible drought. Even though I watered most of my landscaping that I could, some of the Juniper died on me. It turned completely brown and the needles fell off. I don't know if this is coincidental or if it means something........along the same area where the juniper died, there is a 2 ft wide by 4 ft long patch of grass that also died. This patch follows directly in line with the path the limestone seems to be taking.

So was the juniper and grass killed by the drought, or is the evil sinister limestone at fault? The rest of the juniper seems very healthy. Would it be recommended to dig this whole area up and get rid of all the Juniper and do something to replenish the soil here?

I know this is hard to judge without pictures or being able to see it in real life, but I thought maybe someone out there may still know what I am talking about.

Thanks again

RE: White Birch - will this grow well near Juniper and Limestone?

I don't know about there but white birch doesn't do well in Ca. Maybe it's the heat. I see them get planted & then they are gone couple of years later, maybe too messy, folks had couple of them & took them out. I called her, Bro. is there & he said they are beautiful 1st couple of years & then the roots take over & are all over your yard & really make a mess of it. Also they have some pod type things that are messy. Kind of like Magnolias, great looking if have huge yard & don't have to clean up after them. We are broke in CA, they tell us yet they just planted a bunch of magnolia trees at the local park, they are shedding already so lot more work for folks who clean up the park in the future.

RE: White Birch - will this grow well near Juniper and Limestone?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 1, 11 at 22:15

White Birch are not a drought tolerant tree, so if you are losing junipers to dry soil then you probably shouldn't count on a birch doing well. Limestone rock means that your soil ph may be on the alkaline side, and this doesn't mean that your soil is poisonous, but you should avoid trees/plants that like a more acidic or neutral soil. If you want to be more certain of what your soil type actually is, go to a local nursery or garden/hardware store and get yourself a simple soil testing ph kit.

An Eastern Redbud is probably more flexible about soil type, but will still need some watering the first couple of seasons if you get regular prolonged periods without rain, and you don't have much depth of soil over the rock. You might also check out some other flowering trees such as Chionanthus, and I am not sure whether Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica or L. fauriei would be hardy in your area. I bet there are some on line resources for West Virginia such as your local agricultural extension office, or a master gardener's group, that could point you in the right direction for best trees for your area.

If you really want the birch, plant them somewhere with moister soil and access to water, as they like to grow near water/creeks.

RE: White Birch - will this grow well near Juniper and Limestone?

All of what Bahia said :-) Getting a soil pH test done is probably the most important thing you can do, as the acidity/alkalinity of the soil will greatly affect what can and cannot grow well in your location. Generally, birches prefer acidic soils, in addition to even soil moisture.

If drought is at all common in your area, then you want to focus your attention on drought tolerant plants. But even drought tolerant plants need frequent deep watering their first couple of seasons in the ground before they become established and can be considered drought tolerant.

Often, native plants are a good place to start for tree and shrub selection. These are plants that are already well-adapted to local climate and soil condition and tend to thrive with minimal manipulation on the part of the gardener.

The shrub you describe sounds very much like winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus), also known as burning bush for its bright red fall color. This shrub has become invasive throughout much of east and midwest and I'd check before planting to make sure it is "safe" in your area.

RE: White Birch - will this grow well near Juniper and Limestone?

Thank you guys. Unfortunately looks like white birch is out. Darn - I really like those trees. Thanks for your help.

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