Selecting the right tree for the right place is the first step in ny landscape design. Finding the proper site depends on the function of the tree. Other than beautifying your yard, are you looking for a tree to provide shade, flower or fruit, winter interest or fabulous Fall color.
Mike Zins, horticulturist for the University of Minnesota Arboretum suggests, "Go look at the plant in maturity before looking at the nursery's six foot specimen. A mature plan can look much different than a young one." Many specimens are pleasant looking when young, but can be less appealing after 20 years of growth. Others are just the opposite -- they start out less appealing, but mature very nicely. Zins suggests visiting an arboretum or botanical garden where all the trees are labeled. "Selecting a tree is like picking a car. You have to look at the mileage and color to find one that meets your needs." Zins also cautions that a tree's function isn't the only thing to consider. How the tree will do in your soil and climate is also an essential consideration.
Trees are difficult to move once they are established. Consequently, it's important to choose the planting site carefully. Check with local authorities for possible regulations on tree placement. Some communities have ordinances restricting placement of trees within a specified distance of a street or sidewalk, streetlights, or other utilities. Before digging make sure that all underground utilities are clearly marked. In Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island, Dig Safe, is a tremendous resource. A non-profit organization, Dig Safe contacts participating utility companies and alerts them to your plan to dig. The utilities or their contractors mark the underground locations of utilities on your property. The free service is available by phone at "811".
Finding a nursery
Johnson also recommends buying from nurseries with proper irrigation systems. You can be more certain the plants are watered regularly and not allowed to dry out. He also advises buying from garden centered that load trees carefully. Avoid stores that roll or drag their trees around.
When you're at the nursery
1. Inspect Tree
First, Johnson suggests checking the tree carefully. "Make sure the tree has one straight stem with no wounds or cankers, it's well watered and free of dead wood."
2. Check Root Ball
The root ball should be firm. A soft ball usually means too much movement that can ruin the roots. If possible, pull the plant out of the pot to examine its roots. If the roots are so dense that they circle around the root ball, or they are black, you should avoid buying the tree. If they are a creamy, healthy looking color then you should be fine. You should also check to see how much soil is over the root system by poking a probe through the soil until it reaches the main roots. The soil should only be about four inches deep. If it is too deep, the tree will start to decline due to a lack of oxygen.
3. Look at Foilage and Buds
It the foliage, buds and overall appearance looks healthy, it is probably a strong tree.
4. Consider Time of Year
Finally, don't forget the time of year you are purchasing the plant. Although container-grown trees extend growing and planting times, you should still consider the tree's needs. For example, avoid planting trees that aren't hardy in your area during the Fall. Selecting a tree often takes time and a bit of patience. Armed with the knowledge to choose healthy plants, you can select trees that will thrive for years to come.