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Please pick a tree for my front yard...

Posted by feed_the_tree Chicago (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 14, 10 at 21:53

This is my first post on Gardenweb. I need help picking a tree. The pictures show the site. This is a monumental decision, the tree is viewed from the living room and porch. The tree you recommend will probably outlive me and either resonate positively thru the Ages or will be cursed daily by future generations of homeowners.
Here are some rough specifications:
1) tree location is flexible but previous tree (serviceberry) was 5 feet from porch, 2.5 feet from roof of porch and 8 feet from house (HOUSE FACES EAST)
2) bottom 4 feet of tree are shaded by porch in summer(depending on angle of sun)
3) tree goes in corner made by porch and house (behind weeping white pine in the picture, which could be moved)
4) I water and soil can be moist to well drained
5) some shade for the window in summer is good

I am thinking a maple, they grow well in northern Illinois, and shade on the bottom trunk isn't a problem. The trunk could be attractive and won't block the view. Nice fall color.

I don't know what size, type or shape of tree would look best be in proportion to the house.

If you pick a tree and I like it, I will buy you pizza when you are next visiting Chicago.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Please pick a tree for my front yard...

Sorry,I can't open any pics,why?

RE: Please pick a tree for my front yard...

Sorry you can't open the pics

Please try these direct links to the images, let me know if these don't open for you:

RE: Please pick a tree for my front yard...

The tree forum experts can give you a longer list than you can research probably... but a more pertinent question for this august group would be the tree location, size, and it' impact on the scale of the house and future maintenance as it matures.

RE: Please pick a tree for my front yard...


Sorry, here is the wider picture

RE: Please pick a tree for my front yard...

I'm not sure exactly where you'r saying you want it. Do you want it in the flower bed in front of the window, or somewhere on the lawn? Your yard is beautiful right now and I'm not so sure you need a tree!

Thanks Krycek, I posted at the'Tree' forum

Thanks for the compliment. I re-posted this on the tree forum and they are giving good ideas there for a tree and new location. However, you might have the wisest idea, do nothing. I am thinking of the flower bed in front of the window next to the porch. This is where there was a service berry previously.

RE: Please pick a tree for my front yard...

Disclaimer: I'm not a professional. 8-)

On the basis of the first photo, I thought perhaps I'd put a large tree roughly in front of the chimney (perhaps five feet closer to the driveway) and about 25-30' from the house. You don't want a large tree too close to the house (a friend of my mother's was widowed when a pine hit the bedroom of their house; it does happen).

But it seems you already have two large trees on that side of the front yard. I don't see the need for anything else large in the front yard.

Usually people don't worry about shading the east side of a house. It looks like your porch/garage roof might provide some shade for the front windows. But if you think shade there is important, I'd go for a smaller tree (maybe 15-25').

Even with a tree that size, I'm not sure how close to the house and porch would be advisable. It's not just the rare falling limb: roots can be a problem too. You don't want damage to the foundation or the porch. I hope someone else will post a more informed opinion.

If you'll allow me to go off-topic, what strikes me most about the house is all the shrubs in front of the porch. When I look at the house, I don't see a front door. Oh, I'm sure you have one, and I can guess it's probably behind those shrubs somewhere. I can assume that there might be a walkway from the driveway between the house and the shrubs. But I can't see a walkway in these photos. So my impression of the house is not very welcoming.

Maybe you have privacy issues. Maybe you like to sit on the porch in the evenings and don't want every passing driver staring at you. But I urge you to think about replacing the landscaping in that area.

It's not simply the issue of whether the house looks welcoming. Large shrubs near an entrance can provide a hiding place for bad guys, whether it's the burglar trying to break in (no one can see him taking his time to pick the lock or cut a hole in the window) or a lurker hoping to rob the next person who enters the house. If you live in the city, you might want to consider the safety issue.

I love the line of the porch/garage roof: so much more attractive than the typical welcome-to-my-garage arrangement. One of the pros could probably explain why.

Edgebrook? One of the other neighborhoods on the NW edge of the city? Or perhaps Morgan Park? Or are you in the burbs?

RE: Please pick a tree for my front yard...

If you want something that gets kind of tall but isn't necessarily a tree, look up "Sutherland Gold" Elderberry. It's very unique; it may or not may fit your personal taste, but it gets 6-8 feet tall, has graceful branches, and is a nice colour contrast. It could look really well there. It would add a nice lime green colour.

here's your tree

coral bark japanaese maple.

Nice cut leaves for texture in season and interesting winter color. A little pricey, but you're worth it!

RE: Please pick a tree for my front yard...

My first choice, I think, would be the "no tree" choice.

I'm also curious about the fate of the serviceberry. Did it die? Trees do eventually die. Or, since they don't read the tag telling them how tall and wide they should be, they keep growing. Happy trees can get quite a bit bigger than those numbers, which usually reflect the average size at either 5 or 10 years. Did the serviceberry outgrow its spot?

If the space is pretty small, then you may well still live to make a decision about removing the next tree. But, if you want a tree, you could also have years and years of enjoyment. Part of the decision has to do with your personal love affair with trees, which might trump design concerns.

Hope you are familiar with the Morton Arboretum. They've got a website, and you could go there for a lovely fall treat. They grow and research trees all day. They also develop some of their own varieties under the Chicagoland program or some such name.

I didn't keep the web address for the following recommendations from Morton. They have, by the way, recommendations for small, medium, and large trees and for small, medium, and large shrubs.

The notes I have go beyond giving just the name, but that's all I've listed below. If you want the fuller description, you'd have to do a search. They give botanical name, common name, height and spread, growing needs, growth rate, ornamental features, uses in the landscape, etc.

Here's the list of "small" trees recommended for the midwest garden:

Acer griseum
Amelanchier x grandiflora (service berry)
Amelanchier x grandiflora Autumn Brilliance (This one I have. Truly 4 season. Again, its a serviceberry.)
Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny serviceberry)
Cercis Canadensis (redbud)
Cornus alternifolia (pagoda dogwood) Probably too big for your space, but its on their list of "small" trees.
Cornus mas
Cornus mas 'Golden Glory'
Crataegus viridis 'Winter King'
Halesia tetraptera
Magnolia xloebneri 'Leonard Messel'
Magnolia xloebneri 'Merrill'
Magnolia stellata Smallest magnolia suggested here. 8 10.
Magnolia virginiana 10-20
Malus 'Donald Wyman' (crabapple, best in full sun)
Malus 'Prairifire'
Malus 'Sutyzam'
Syringa pekinensis (Peking Lilac)
Syringa pekinensis 'Morton' has amber colored exfoliating bark
Syringa reticulata
Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk'


Thanks Wellspring,

Yes, I practically live at the Morton Arboretum. In fact, I am leaving for there right now to take my old folks. I posted this under "trees" and there is more discussion there. The serviceberry was half dead and looked bad, planted in 1958 when the house was built. gotta go..

Dissin' Donald's crabs

I am back. The Arboretum is great, but the redbud I bought at their annual plant sale died after 2 years. Their own redbuds, as you approach the west building, don't look healthy, but I am not an RKI. I bought 2 of the Donald Wyman crabapple they recommend also at the sale. My crabapple trees are attacked by EVERYTHING, fungus, bugs... The 17 year cicada locusts also did very heavy damage to mine. Awesome spring flowers, but I wish I had planted magnolias instead.

RE: Please pick a tree for my front yard...


Sorry to hear about your redbud and crabapple experiences. I'm originally from Oklahoma where redbuds are everywhere yet, except for 'Forest Pansy', most folks don't plant them in their yards. They appreciate the native ones.

But I do like my Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance'. It has settled in nicely, blooms up a storm, and has blazing fall color. If it has set fruit in the 3 seasons we've had it, I haven't noticed, so that's a possible future pleasure. Birds apparently love the fruit and get it before us humans do.

I wonder what sort of serviceberry yours was? There are several different species and forms. But their healthy life expectancy is similar to their fruiting cousins (cherries, plums, etc.) about 30 yrs. Yard specimens always seem to break the age and size numbers, but there is a limit to how long any tree might last.

I did wander over to the trees forum and read your query over there. Sounds like several suggested just letting the white pine carry the show. But that's not what you are wanting. And, no "red leaf maples", eh?

I'm south of you down here in Springfield and originally from places even further south. For some reason I struggle to accept the fact that certain magnolias do fine up here? Isn't that weird? They're always available at the nurseries, both local garden centers and the big box stores.

My thing is fragrance, so there may yet be a magnolia in my future ... or a Cornus alternifolia, if I can figure out where to put one.


Funny you mention magnolias. There are some beautiful magnolias at the Morton arboretum near the conifer walk. I am also surprised they can do so well here. They are in full sun, but it is a windy location on the edge of a open field.

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