So you bought tree, now what? Dig a hole, put tree in hole, fill up hole...right? Yeah, pretty much. However, there are some trees that are not properly suited to your soil and climatic conditions. That is what this article is about the planting of tree to ensure survival of an investment of both time and money.
First of all, lets assume the tree is near where you would like to plant it. Is this a good spot? Look at the tag and hopefully you asked some good questions at the nursery. You did ask good questions at the nursery, didn't you? The biggest consideration is sunlight tolerance. Is the site sunny, shady or somewhere in between? This something to ask your nurseryman, usually the tags are written in climates different than we have in Central Oklahoma and can be wrong, so ask. Second is tree size. Usually the tags are spot on here, but sometimes Oklahoma clay and wind can stunt growth. Are there structures in the way? If so, do you mind regular pruning? What about driveway or sidewalks that the trunk or roots could damage? Does the tree fruit? You may not want it near you car. Maybe fall litter will clog your gutters. Things to think about. The last major consideration is water. Is the area higher and dry or low and wet? Is it an area you can get water to easily? There are other things to think about but these are the major points. Now that you have thought about them it is time to go pick a tree, go ahead, I'll wait...
It's finally spring this will be our last post in a series about good tree selections for central Oklahoma. Our next post will be about the site selection and planting of these trees.
Pines have had a lot of bad press lately. After the hail storms last year many Pines turned yellow and died. This was caused by the Pine Bark Beetle introducing a fungus or blight to the trees through the wounds from being pummeled by the hail. Unfortunately the most popular Pine, Austrian Pine, P. nigra, is also horribly susceptible to blight. But there are good varieties, most are vast improvements over the Austrian Pine.
There are few trees that can be called “perfect.” Only a few of those are suited to Oklahoma. In the wind down of the Good Trees for Oklahoma Series, I bring you the Serviceberry.
Sometimes called Juneberry, the Serviceberry is a sadly underused tree. Not too large, only 25 to 30 feet, tall and half as wide, they can be planted anywhere. It has a nice open canopy that allows light to pass through. That along with a lack of surface roots make for easy plantings and lawns under the tree.
Several species and variates exist, but the most commonly available is also the most versatile. Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (A. X grandiflora), one of the Apple Serviceberries. In spring drooping clusters of white flowers open from pink buds. Later, new foliage is purple-ish and fades to a soft blue green. In early summer red berries from that you can fight the birds for as the taste like sweet mini apples and are great in pies and jams. The meat of the fruit is clear/white so mess from birds is not a major concern, but should be considered. Leaves develop orange or red coloration and remain that way for a considerable time. In winter the silvery bark shows off the strong, storm damage resistant branches; making this a four season tree. Uncommon cases of rust and fireblight can occur but are almost always minor.
I realize late winter is not really the time to be thinking about Fall but I am. Fall in the north east, to be exact. Just about anyone should be able to conjure up an image of the New Hampshire-ish region in fall. Trees turning to oranges, reds and yellows. The tree most common there is the Maple. Dozens of species and hundreds of varieties exist all over the nation. Many do not do well with our oppressive heat and frequent mini droughts; while others suffer because of fast growth weakening them in our various storms. Other Maples will be covered later, but for the Sadly Under-used Oklahoma Series, I would like to talk about the Sugar Maple. Which brings me back to the New Hampshire/Vermont-ish area. The very tree responsible for Maple Syrup and much of the North East's Fall color.
Now, Oklahoma and New Hampshire have very similar climates, soils and growing conditions, so, the Sugar Maple is GREAT for Oklahoma. End of story,see you next week...
Ok, I am being told that was in fact wrong...Oklahoma and the North East apparently have wildly different climates. There are just some varieties that are good for Oklahoma.
Continuing our series on trees best suited to dealing with Oklahoma's ...interesting... climate, I bring you the Black Gum. Those of you familiar with Van Morrison will know Tupelo Honey, not only one of the greatest albums of all time but a honey made from bees that pollinate trees in the Nyssa genus.
Early Spring really is one of the best times to get started on your landscapes. Trees and shrubs get a huge benefit from being planted this time of year because of their dormancy cycle. For the same reason bare root roses typically do better than their potted counterparts, trees and shrubs usually do not have the stress and shock symptoms when planted in the colder months. Therefor, for the next few weeks, we will cover some of the better trees and shrubs for central Oklahoma. At the end of this series, we will have a post on the best ways to plant these plants to ensure the best success.
To start this series on Oklahoma-able trees and shrubs, we will cover the state tree, the Oklahoma Redbud (Cercis canadensis texensis 'Oklahoma'). Most of us have seen them, some of us like them, so I will be brief with the description. They are fast growing to 25-ish feet, and have a open rounded shape with mostly horizontal branching.
Photo courtesy Monrovia
Below: Easter Redbud (Top)
Oklahoma Redbud (Bottom)
This is where is is so important to read tags. Most Redbuds sold are not truly Oklahoma Redbuds. An Eastern Redbud has light green leaves and pale pink flowers, while the Texas Redbuds, of which the Oklahoma is a variety, have thicker darker and glossy leaves and the Oklahoma alone has dark and rich pink flowers. The Texas Redbuds are also more adapted to the heavy alkaline soils here in the plains. Other Eastern Redbuds will need extensive soil amending and close watch on the water. Especially when freshly planted. No matter what species or variety is chosen, better than average drainage and watering will be needed. They are not a low maintenance tree; stay tuned for our message on how to make just about any tree low maintenance. Besides site requirements, the only thing to look out for is too many trunks. Too many splits stunts growth, weakens the tree and invites water and insect infiltration that can split the tree.
Aside from our state tree there are plenty of good varieties:
Sedum is, by far, one of the most varied genus of the Plant Kingdom. Over 400 species grace this line of plants and within that there are numerous more varieties. I will focus on a few in the hopes that this will spark you to ask questions and do your own research on these marvelous plants. Basically, Sedum is a succulent, most are trailing but some are upright, colors ranges from gold to blue to red and all are very tough. Several are cold hardy here in Oklahoma and others are tropical and make great house plants.
PHOTO: Tri-Color Sedum, from: www.plantsafari.com
Well, thinking it was about time for a tree, I thought I would start with one of my favorites. The Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioica) is a hardy stout tree with few faults.
Its biggest fault is its leaves. A double compound leaf means each leaf kind of has branches of its own. They are also quite large from one to three feet long, they are like a palm frond. Add the seed pods to the mix, a bit of a mess in fall and winter. However, being so large they don't blow around so clean up is a breeze and due to the branch structure of the tree, there are not as many leaves as one would expect.
And yes, that is ONE leaf in the picture!
Mainly because of its leaves, the Coffee Tree has a spartan branch structure. Typically 3-4 main branches and not much more secondary branching. This is good for a couple reasons.
Oklahoma weather is hard on trees, ice coating the branches, fifty mile per hour sustained wind speed, tornadoes, two blizzards in as many weeks, not to mention the heat and drought. Having so few branches makes the tree very resistant to storm damage. It has no "sails" to catch the wind and the branches it has are extra stout.
Also, the winter is friendly to the trees appearance. Without all of the spindly outer twigs, the tree does not look so bare and makes for a striking and solid look.
Notice the guy in blue to the left of the tree!
The Kentucky Coffee Tree received its name from the seed it bares. Inside a large (4-9 inches) leathery brown seed pod are "nuts" that can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute. But be careful, the seed are poisonous until roasted or boiled. The seeds hang on the tree all winter adding to its interest but later in the season they fall and can be problematic.
This is truly a four season tree. The leaves come out with a pinkinsh tint in Spring and fade to a dark blueish green in the Summer when is pyramidal form is really show off. Fall comes with a mix of lime green and yellow, usually more of the lime green. Finally in Winter, the contorted branches with a gray ruffled bark are put on show. People will ask you how you trim your tree to keep it from looking weedy in winter.
This in one of the most versatile trees I know about, it will grow well in every state and into Canada and Mexico. It thrives in moist rich soil but it also does well in the hot, dry, clay-pit that is central Oklahoma. Roots are not a problem, it makes a great street tree provided enough over head room is given. Regularly 70-80 feet tall and 50 feet wide with the potential for larger, they need room (but just a little!). Stately Manor is a "dwarf" male(seedless) variety at only 50' tall by 20' wide.
Water heavily the first couple years and you will have a extremely drought resistant specimen that will only require water in the driest of summers. Pruning is unnecessary if planting location was wise. Buy in winter so you know what your getting (male or female). Both are needed to seed but close proximity is not necessary. Pick one without many branches below seven feet or so; they are only going to get larger and you don't want to have to duck do you?
If anyone out there has "dirt" instead of "soil," then Guara is for you. Let me introduce you to this little wonder: Guara lindheimeri is a perennial that will grow in every state, hot or cold. Typically two to four feet tall and wide and never needs dividing. It can take drought or wet conditions provided it is planted in well draining soil; here in Oklahoma, we add a lot of composted pine bark mulch to achieve that. You can expect blooms all season, spring to fall. Deadheading is not necessary but will encourage faster rebloom and discourage self seeding. All varieties have flowers in the white/pinkish to red family but they will provide different effects.