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Landscape Now: 10 Low-Maintenance Trees For Your Yard

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Sustainable trees such as this Pagoda dogwood are less maintenance, lower cost, and easier on the environment.

Now that spring is really here, many homeowners are making plans to install new trees and shrubs or replace plants damaged last fall in the hurricane or during the numerous winter storms. I have previously discussed several considerations for correct plant choices; soil conditions, appropriate hardiness zone, site conditions and consider using native plants. For the next two articles I will describe sustainable tree and shrub choices for your landscape. Just what does sustainable mean?

Sustainable Trees and Shrubs

Sustainable plants are those that will require a minimum of care; watering, feeding, pest control and pruning. Many choices are natives, but there are non-native, non-invasive plants that will also work in our area. With our hectic schedules choosing low maintenance landscape plants, properly siting and installing them and performing a minimum of after care will make our landscape projects...successful and fun! U.R.I. has developed a Sustainable Plant List (http://www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sheets/sustman.pdf ) that you can download and use as a great reference. We are looking for ways to reduce human impacts on the environment...planting low maintenance, disease-resistant and sustainable plants is one way to begin. Let’s look at 10 examples of sustainable trees that will be appropriate for our southern New England region.

10 Sustainable Tree Choices

River birch (Betula nigra)...The River birch will grow quite large (50-60’), is less susceptible to birch leaf miner and resistant to the bronze birch borer than white birches. Plant in moist well-drained soil and realize it will grow quickly and large! Native.

White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)... Under used small tree (15-25’) is adaptable to many soil types and has a fragrant creamy-white flower in June with a blue/black fruit in September. Attractive to birds and native.

Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)...This low-branched, small and native dogwood grows in partial shade, cool and acidic soils. Yellow, fragrant flowers appear in May-June. Grows (15-20’) and has distinctive horizontal branching.

Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia psuedocamellia)...Non-native, disease-resistant beautiful four season tree. Grows (30-40’). White camellia-like flower in June/July and exfoliating bark make it a great choice as a specimen in the landscape.

Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa)...Alternative to the native white dogwood, anthracnose fungus resistant, has creamy-white flowers in June and a raspberry fruit. Very colorful foliage in the fall and mottled bark.

Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)...This China native will grow (20-30’) in sun/partial shade and moist, well drained soil. It is maintenance free and distinguished by its cinnamon, exfoliating bark and red-scarlet fall foliage. Slow growing.

Crabapples (Malus Robinson)...One of the disease-resistant varieties exhibited at the URI Crabapple Tree Disease Evaluations at East Farm, Kingstown, RI. This tree has red fruit and flowers, grows (20-25’) and has good to excellent resistance for apple scab, fireblight, cedar apple rust and powdery mildew.

Hemlock (Tsuga diversifolia)...Unfortunately, the native hemlock is infested with wooly adelgids making it non-sustainable so the northern Japanese hemlock is one recommended since it is resistant to the adelgid. It grows (50-60’), slow growing, dense, dark green foliage and is easily transplanted.

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)...This native evergreen is adaptable to poor and droughty soils, is the alternate host for the cedar apple rust and is salt tolerant. Good choice for screening and coastal plantings.

Black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)...This underused native small tree (30-40’) grows in moist, well drained soils although it will tolerate wet soils. Best in sun, partial shade and features spectacular scarlet-orange fall foliage.

Sustainable Tree Benefits

In addition to less maintenance, less inputs to keep the trees alive, and less costs, these sample tree choices will provide year round interest. The deciduous, flowering trees exhibit interest with beautiful flowers, interesting bark, fall foliage and distinctive form during the winter months. The future of landscaping will require the use of sustainable plants with minimal care, pruning and resources to keep them thriving (water, fertilizers and pesticides) and the trees mentioned in this article are a great place to start!

In the next article I will discuss sustainable shrubs that will be appropriate for our southern New England landscapes!

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” Martin Luther

Frank Crandall, Horticultural Solutions. Frank, is a RI resident specializing in coastal landscaping, organic land care, small business consulting, writing, speaking and photography will be submitting biweekly articles about Landscape Solutions. With over 40 years in the horticultural field Frank will write about pertinent, seasonal landscape topics including effective solutions. Comments about Frank’s articles are welcome by contacting him at: [email protected]


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