Our recent posts have focused on paying tribute, visually, to the healing energy of nature thanks to photos of a stunning spring symphony in Wanda’s west coast garden blooms, and, courtesy of Lucy’s incredible and staggering collection of beautiful bird photos. Our contribution of calming positivity as we all do our part to stay safe, shelter in place, and save lives.
Earlier in March, we made the case for why birds matter to humans, including their vital role as pollinators of one-third of our food supply, and in turn, for why increasing healthy, native tree habitats is essential for both bird survival and for humanity, in the race to combat the global warming and climate changes which threaten all species.
We are reminded of the full multitude of reasons for Why Trees Matter–from being bird habitats, to serving as vital carbon sinks, to the life giving oxygen trees create, for flood protection, medicine and so much more–through this compelling piece on the Virtue of Trees, by Lorraine Johnson, posted on Landscape Ontario’s website – https://bit.ly/3bXm4EQ.
Are you inspired to plant a tree (or garden) this spring?
If you are and do have the space and inclination, here are some tips we’ve found from tree and landscape experts to help in your tree success.
Step One for Tree Survival
“Choosing the right tree, for the right spot, is perhaps the most important factor that will determine whether or not the tree will survive and thrive,” according to a six-page guide on Planting a Tree, by the Master Gardeners of Toronto.
They advise on starting by choosing your site first, and then assessing for available “space, light, soil, water and wind conditions.” (We will explore the topic of tree planting and soil conditions in future.)
Next, narrowing the wide choice of hardy trees available for your region and site will depend on factors such as “what function the tree will perform in your landscape.” Examples of potential tree functions include privacy, cooling shade, wind screening, aesthetics (including fall leaf colour, winter berry colour), fruit-bearing, bird shelter, attractiveness for pollinators (bees, birds, butterflies), and of course, for carbon capture.
Fun fact – Did you know that you can help honey bee pollinators find your garden source of nectar and pollen by avoiding the colour red and instead choosing bushes, trees and flowers with white, yellow, blue or purple-coloured flowers? To learn why and more about pollinator friendly garden design, check this fact sheet by Landscape Ontario https://bit.ly/3bYhQg5. They also offer three Pollinator flower posters by region, suitable for National, https://bit.ly/2UTnRFs, Ontario, https://bit.ly/2xbeHeh, and Western Canada gardens https://bit.ly/2JOWPbS.
Think Beyond Spring to Summer, Fall and Winter Colour
When doing research to find hardy trees (and/or shrubs and bushes) that fit your landscape design and your location’s soil, light and climate conditions, landscape experts suggest we think beyond the spring flowering season, to consider summer, fall and even winter colours that your tree might offer too, for year-long beauty in your garden.
This Better Homes and Gardens article on matching trees for your house profiles the spring blooms of the Japanese Maple, Callery Pear, Crabapple, Chinese Dogwood, Saucer Magnolia and Wheeping Cherry, among others, including fruit trees https://bit.ly/3d3Gttr.
We found that the Mountain Ash tree checks multiple boxes – offering orange, red and yellow fall leaf colours, winter red berry colour, plus, berry food for birds. It is also a tree that is suited to Edmonton (Lucy) and Toronto (Catherine), where we live. Another pollinator tree that is identified by Landscape Ontario as suitable to North American climate zones is the shapely (apparently) Aesculus Flava Yellow Buckeye https://bit.ly/34C8Mv9.
What Can Happen Without Enough Planning
At a friend’s home in Phoenix, all the trees on the street died and they were told by the neighbourhood association to plant two new trees in the front yard. Three tree choices were given. Knowing very little they chose the Palo Verde tree, ordered one up, and had it planted. Even in the desert, this tree grew so very large in the span of just three years, as shown above, and then grew more. Later, this family realized that there are two types of Palo Verde, and they could have chosen the smaller variety, had they known.
This huge tree interfered with the garbage trucks, needed constant trimming, and even then it twice broke off huge limbs during wind storms. They were told, “if you do not thin it, nature will!” inspite of arborists (online) saying that trimming this tree weakens it. The tree ended up costing a lot of money with regular trimming and emergency limb removal after the storms. It has so many blossoms, it is much like shovelling snow on a daily basis during blooming season.
The moral of the story is to spend the upfront time to research your tree choices carefully, especially if you are new to an area. Research can include talking with neighbours, or asking what might be the downside of a particular tree. Does it shed unwanted berries, kill the lawn, grow too slowly or quickly, or have a short life span? How extensive will its underground root system become at maturity? How much maintenance will it require? (Tree tip: We are learning that coniferous trees typically need less maintenance after planting than do deciduous or fruit trees.)
Choosing the Right Tree
With that cautionary tale in mind, we certainly still want to encourage and support you in your tree planting quest, and growing success!
Here are some additional tree resources to help you choose a perfect tree to meet your goals:
Tree Canada – Trees of Canada Resource
Plant Hardiness Zones – Government of Canada
Landscape Ontario – Plant Encyclopedia
Trees Native to Toronto
Common Trees of Edmonton
Tree Planting Guides
Once you’ve chosen your perfect tree, and prepared the planting site, the tree planting guides that follow offer advice on a wide range of topics, including – soil amendment, preparing the tree for planting, determining planting depth, checking and repositioning roots, staking the tree, water and fertilizer, minimizing stress on your tree, taking care of your tree, how young a tree to plant, how often to water a tree, tree planting myths and urban legends, species selection, planting techniques, bareroot planting, checklist for new tree planting, mulching, insects and diseases, aeration, tree maintenance timetable, and more!
Master Gardeners Toronto – Planting a Tree
Master Gardeners Toronto – Tips for Planting Japanese Maples
Tree Canada – Tree Planting Guide
US Department of Agriculture – How to Plant Trees Successfully
Virginia Lawncare – Newly Planted Trees – Survival Tips
Master Gardeners Toronto – Organic Fruit Garden Guide
Growing Trees and Shrubs Organically – Toronto Master Gardeners
Blooming Deciduous Trees and Shrubs – Toronto Master Gardeners
Pollinators – Guides
Here are some resources on creating pollinator friendly gardens, plus three resources created by the City of Toronto about actual local pollinators – bees, butterflies and spiders of Toronto.
Brochure – How to Create a Pollinator Friendly Garden
Pollinator Garden – Master Gardener Fact Sheet
Bees of Toronto
Butterflies of Toronto
Spiders of Toronto
Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society
Master Gardener Resource List
Toronto Master Gardeners – Qs and As
Tree Problem? – Consult with an Aborist
International Society of Aboriculture – Ontario Chapter
Gardening Problem? – Ask a Master Gardener
Toronto Master Gardeners are happy to answer gardening questions. They offer an online form and a commitment to respond within five (5) days to questions submitted to their Ask a Master Gardener web-page, at, https://bit.ly/2yAeb9V
Earth Day 2020 – April 22, 2020
The countdown is on to the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day – just 13 days and one more Blog post – on April 22, 2020.
Please consider planting or donating a tree to mark this important milestone. Help reach the event organizers’ goal of Seven Billion Trees – one tree for every person on our Beautiful Home of Planet Earth.
We are all doing our part to stay safe, stay home, save lives and flatten the pandemic’s curve. We are grateful for these sacrifices and efforts by individuals for the collective good.
In the same way, we believe each one of us makes a difference to slowing global warming and climate change, saving species and creating a healthy livable habitat for all. We are the change we need.