Three Knockout Trees Full Of Spring Blooms

Spring blooming trees make a huge impact on defeating the winter blues, and in a competitive house market promise to lure potential buyers straight to your door.

When you want a cool weather focal piece in your yard, but are ready to steer toward something more unusual than the common Cherry Tree, here are three knockout choices sure to please.

IMG 2442 768x1024 Three Knockout Trees Full Of Spring BloomsIMG 2438 768x1024 Three Knockout Trees Full Of Spring BloomsIMG 2437 768x1024 Three Knockout Trees Full Of Spring Blooms

The Saucer Magnolia

This bloomer produces blossoms the size of a woman’s hand, and covers the tree in bright purple and white tipped flowers. Tight buds appear beginning in February or mid-March at the latest, and this magnolia has a reputation as one of the earliest blooming trees you can buy.  This variety is the ‘Alexandrina Dark Clone,’ which has the distinction of 10 inch wide open blossoms, and white interior petals with purple exteriors.

The wood of this tree is soft like many ornamentals, and this tree can be prone to sooty mold and scale.  The Saucer Magnolia can be grown with success across coastal areas, and in all but the coldest and windiest climates since it is prone to snap under the weight of heavy snows and wind. It will not do well in open prairie developments, and is healthiest in habitats similar to its home environment, Japan. Its ideal growing conditions are in moist well mulched beds, with filtered sunlight, and it looks particularly good mixed in with a shrub border. It tops out at 20 to 30 feet in height. [Read more...]

Native Landscaping Plant To Know: River Birch

img 0482 225x300 Native Landscaping Plant To Know: River Birch

The River Birch is a wonderful native North American Tree that won widespread recognition in 2002 as the “Tree of the Year” from several several national Arborist societies.  Easily found now in most local nurseries, this riverbed native is now a favorite as a street tree in urban settings because of it’s hardy nature, and drought tolerance.  River Birch are fast growing trees, that max out in height at about 50-70 feet tall over the course of about twenty years.  They provide excellent shade in the summer and fall months, and beautiful peeling bark through the winter that varies in shade from red, to peach, to purple.  

 What You’ll Love:  

This tree is remarkably resistant to Borer insects, and a wide variety of pests and diseases.  The peeling bark of the tree lends itself to softening the appearance of urban structures, and can add a woodsy appeal to a variety of yards. 

What It Gives Back To You And Your Yard:

River Birch is an excellent choice for areas that need erosion controlling plants, be it a hillside, or a stream bed area. These thrive in drainage swales, and moist areas on your property that may drowned or be too boggy down other garden plants. If you are looking for a fast growing shade tree this also makes a great choice, and can help you cut down those summer cooling bills when planted around a house.

What It Does For The Environment:

Aside from being a “greener” ecological alternative to foreign bred plants, this tree  provides food for deer, who eat low growing foliage, while the seeds of the plant attract songbirds.

For a great, easy care tree for your yard or local park, see if the River Birch will meet your needs, and you will be amazed at all it can give back to you.

Migrating Robins Make A Pit-Stop At The Office

316671358 5656aea8ec 300x225 Migrating Robins Make A Pit Stop At The OfficeWashington Hawthorn trees line part of the driveway outside my office, and every year around this time attract flocks of migrating songbirds who feast on the berries before moving further south.  Last year I missed seeing the Cedar Waxwings who appeared by the hundreds to polish off the fruit.  This year I happened to be driving by in my corporate pick-up truck, and caught about 70 Robins standing both around the trees and in the branches wolfing down the red berries.  It was cute to see the cooperation with the birds in the tree eating a few berries themselves and pulling others loose to drop to the birds below.

It’s particularly satisfying to see that the migrating songbirds have our headquarters on their mental list of places to pit-stop at on their southern migration. I’ll have to see what stops by next year for the 2009 crop of berries.

Photo courtesy of audreyjm529

How To: Determine A “Pollard” Tree

img 0339 225x300 How To: Determine A “Pollard” TreeIf you are a new homeowner, or simply home shopping, you will want to determine if the trees around the property have been Pollard pruned, and factor the cost of yearly Arborist visits into your budget, or the asking price on a house.  A pollard tree requires large-scale yearly pruning to maintain the overall health of the tree, or the tree will suffer from structural issues, and pose a threat to nearby cars, and property, with regularly falling limbs and debris.

How To Tell If A Tree Has Been Pollard Pruned:

Throughout the fall and winter, a pollard pruned tree will be obvious, with the majority of it’s growth cut away, and no foliage visable.  Through the growing season, these trees may be more readily identified by abnormally thick growth in the crown of the tree, and a disproportionately thick truck of the tree when compared to the height of the tree.  In the height of summer, a pollard tree’s foliage often resembles a mushroom shape, wimg 03401 225x300 How To: Determine A “Pollard” Treeith an almost perfectly shaped dome of leaves rising over the trunk of the tree.  One of the trademarks of the rapid and thick growth following a pollard pruning is that the foliage in the crown of the tree is so thick that you cannot see daylight through the branches. Pollarding cuts off the mature and natural branching of the tree, and capitalizes on the rapid growth of what are called water sprouts. Out of each branch cut will grow wads of small water sprouts, that create a very full illusion of foliage, but a very weak structure. When looking into a fully leafed-out tree to check for pollarding, let your eye follow the main branches up the tree from underneath, and notice if the branches abruptly dead-end into clumps of long finger-like shoots that grow straight up toward the sky.  If you find this pattern repeated through the tree, then you have a pollarded tree.

To the left are two pictures.  The top picture is of a pollarded tree, and it’s mushroom cap growth, and bottom picture is of a tree pruned for structural soundness, but allowed to grow naturally. Asimg 0341 225x300 How To: Determine A “Pollard” Tree illustrated by these two pictures, average foliage growth on a tree that has not been pollarded allows sunlight through, and has been allowed to develop mature branches, that open the tree up, with yearly foliage growth more consistently toward the perimeter of the crown. Pollarding allows a tree to keep water sprouts, and trains a tree to repeatedly develop them, a practice discouraged in common pruning methods, where branches are carefully selected to bear the load of future years of growth.

If you are house shopping, pollarded trees in the yard, or along a street, that you may become responsible for, are one thing to add to your list of items to ask the prior homeowner about.  Yearly Arborist visits to care for your trees can add up, and will be an item you may want to use in negotiating your settlement.  Unfortunatley, due to the large-scale nature of this pruning method, it is not a practical project for the weekend DIY-er, and will require the hauling away of a years worth of tree growth. For new homeowners with existing pollarded trees, contact a knowledgeable arborist in your area to work on a plan to maintain a healthy pollarded tree.  A yearly, or bi-yearly full pruning plan will be needed for the life of the tree.

“Pollarding:” An Extreme Way To Shape Your Tree’s Growing Habits

img 0336 300x225 “Pollarding:” An Extreme Way To Shape Your Tree’s Growing HabitsI was on my way over to my sister’s house, when I passed Arborists in her neighborhood gearing up to prune one of her neighbor’s street trees.  Having seen the final result of the requested “pollard pruning” in years past I came by later to photograph the fresh cuts. This type of pruning is my absolute least favorite, and can give new meaning to the term ‘stark,’ leaving the tree with nothing but the bare essentials for the fall and winter months.

“Pollarding” is the once-yearly removal of all the previous years growth all at once, and when done properly requires a skilled and artistic eye, to correctly select the branches that will be kept in the final design. Arguably, this method is designed  to lengthen the life of a tree, and keep the tree size relevant to the space within which it is planted.  For hundreds of years, this type of pruning has been utilized across the great cities of the world as a method of containing street trees, and encouraging uniformity of appearance.  Historically speaking, this method was developed in the days of wood stoves, and earlier still, of hearth fires, when trees were pollarded as a method of guaranteeing a regular wood pile supply for the winter. The trimmings from the tree, including the leaves and young shoots were often kept as winter food sources for livestock. European countries especially hold many trees that were used for these “working” methods, until the last 50-75 years, whereas now much of the pollarding is continued for visual reasons.

The downside to pollarding is that once a tree is pruned with the pollarding method, the tree must always be pruned in this same way, as the top growth out of the cuts are untrustworthy, and weak, and can cause damage to the tree, or nearby property.  Pollards are susceptible to wind and storm damage, when fully leafed out, and when left unpruned for more than one or (at maximum) two years, can actually strangle themselves with the overabundance of shoot growth and water spout growth that becomes tangled in the crown of the tree.

Over time, the appearance of the tree after pruning will alter, and large “knuckles” will form at the top of the branches, as the tree repeatedly heals from repedetive cuts in the same area, and seals and protects itself from the weather. The final result after years of pollarding will produce a rather ominous looking tree trunk shape, a fact not lost on the author of the  “Harry Potter” stories, who designed a rather aggressive character named “The Whomping Willow,” on the appearance of common Willow tree Pollards in England.

My Thoughts: I personally would never apply this technique to my own trees. To the untrained (or concerned) eye, this method looks more like scalping a tree, than encouraging growth, and in the United States, where this method is used infrequently, the appearance of the trees especially through the fall and winter months may repell homebuyers if your house is on the market.  Unfortunately where curb-appeal is king, this method often will not provide a return on the yearly investment you make with local arborists, in the care and upkeep of this high-maintenance method, and will be an item that either you, or the homeowners that follow you, will need to build into the yearly budget throughout the life of the tree.

Your Thoughts: What are your thoughts on pollarding?  Do you own a pollarded tree?  Would you ever used this method in your own yard?