The Right Tree in the Right Place

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 7, 2010

‘The right tree in the right place’ is a phrase worth remembering.

Think of it like this: A Maserati may be the perfect car for cruising down a road in the Italian countryside; however, you wouldn’t haul mulch in one. Similarly, an old pickup may be just right to keep on the farm, but its 5 mpg fuel appetite would make it a drain on the wallet for long commutes.

There is no single vehicle that meets all needs of all the people.

Trees are the same. Some species, such as dogwood, remain small their entire lives, while others, like burr oak, become large and stately. The wood of soft maples and some other species is weak and breaks easily, while hard maples grow slowly and have much stronger wood. Each species has unique characteristics that make it a good fit in some landscapes but not in others.

Just like selecting a vehicle that is right for you and the use you intend to make of it, it’s important that you pick the tree that is right for the place you intend to plant it.

“Trees are your best antiques.”
—Alexander Smith

When considering what tree to plant, think first about what benefits you want from the tree. Are you planting trees as a screen from the neighbors, as an accent by your front door, for shade, or to serve as a windbreak? Are you interested in pretty trees that have beautiful spring flowers and rich fall color?

Knowing the functions you want trees to perform will help you determine which species to choose, as well as where in your landscape you might want to plant them.

Consider your site. Are there structures such as sidewalks, gardens or other trees to be avoided? Is there going to be enough room for a tree to grow?

Remember to look up! A common mistake is to plant a small sapling that will mature into large shade tree directly under a power line. This is a no-win situation for you, the tree and the utility company. Large shade trees should be planted 45 feet from overhead utility wires. If your site is close to utility lines, consider planting trees that remain small, or plant shrubs.

Whenever there is adequate room, consider planting large shade trees. The benefits from shade trees greatly outweigh those of small ornamental trees.

Big trees cool the air, provide shade, improve air and water quality and extend the life of streets.

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