Trees for 4 Seasons

Trees have long been regarded as one of our nation’s greatest resources. In recognition of their importance, Arbor Day was established in Nebraska in 1872 to encourage pioneers and settlers to plant trees for shade, fuel, shelter, and fruit.

These days, each state chooses its own date to observe Arbor Day, but the last Friday in April has been set aside as National Arbor Day. So why not carry on the tradition and plant a tree in your yard?

Before you select a tree, take note of the area where you want to plant it. Is the location in sun or shade? What type of soil does it have? Is the area soggy or well drained? Your tree will grow and thrive if make sure the site matches the tree’s optimum growing conditions.

Another important consideration is to compare the site to the expected size of the tree. Large trees like oaks can over power a small garden while smaller ornamental trees such as a dogwood will be lost in a great expanse of lawn. You will also need to consider proximity to buildings, sidewalks and other hardscape features. Tree canopies and root growth can be troublesome if planted in the wrong spot.

Don’t forget to look up to make sure that when the tree reaches its mature height it won’t interfere with any above ground wiring. It is also very important that you know where are the buried power, gas, and water lines are on your property. Utility companies will help you mark the lines before you dig. If you have a septic system in your yard, you’ll also want to avoid planting a tree where roots might grow into the laterals.

After selecting a site for your new tree, dig a hole. A good rule of thumb is to make it at least twice the size of the root ball, container or root spread. Mix the soil you’ve taken out of the ground with compost at a fifty-fifty ratio. Add this mixture to the bottom of the hole. This gives the roots a good home and raises the tree to the proper grade. You always want to try to match the original soil line with the existing grade of your lawn or garden. If your tree is container grown or bare root spread the roots out in the bottom of the hole.

Once you’ve positioned the tree, make sure any nylon cording is removed. Leaving it will girdle the tree and eventually kill it. Also, if your tree is balled and burlapped fold back the burlap from the top of the ball. This is biodegradable and will break down in just a few months. It’s important to note that these days some trees are balled and burlapped with a synthetic material. In such instances the covering should be removed completely.

Now, just layer in the soil mixture. As you do this occasionally add water to displace any air pockets.

Once the tree is planted feed it with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer and spread about three inches of mulch around the base.

Four Trees for Four Seasons of Color

Redbud ‘Forest Pansy’
Cercis canadensis
This is an incredible ornamental tree that is perfect for the small garden. The large heart-shaped leaves and deep burgundy color help it stand out in the garden. And of course its bloom, for many of us, is a favorite harbinger of spring, second only to the daffodil.

Fast Facts:
Zones: 5 – 9
Mature Height: 30′ wide by 30′ tall
Type: Deciduous
Growth Rate: Medium to Fast
Soil: Fertile, Loamy, Consistently Moist, and Well-Drained
Light: Full Sun to Dappled Shade
Bloom: Early Spring Before Leaves Emerge
Design Contribution: Good ornamental for a small garden. Purple blooms provide color and texture in early spring. Deep burgundy, heart shaped foliage continue color and pattern contribution through summer.

Red Maple ‘Red Sunset’
Acer rubrum
After seeing Red Sunset’ ablaze in mid November, I knew I had to have at least one. The reds in the leaves are bold and striking. These trees are the last fiery explosion of color in my garden before it nods off to sleep.

Fast Facts:
Zones: 3 – 9
Mature Height: 35′ wide by 50′ tall
Type: Deciduous
Growth Rate:Medium to Fast
Soil: Average to Acidic, Consistently Moist and Well-Drained
Light: Full Sun to Light Shade
Design Contribution:Beautiful red foliage in fall. Emerging leaf buds are also red, which provides color and texture in early spring. Dense green canopy in summer.

Smoke Tree
Cotinus coggygria
The purple leaves of the smoke tree are an excellent combination with the pink and lavender flowers in my garden. It gets its name from the fine drifts of bloom that resemble puffs smoke.

Fast Facts:
Zones: 4 – 8
Mature Height: 12′ wide by 10′ to 15′ tall
Type: Deciduous
Growth Rate: Medium
Soil: Loamy, Well-Drained
Light: Full Sun
Bloom: Summer
Design Contribution: Purple-pink "puffs" of bloom create color and texture through the summer. Dark purple foliage adds color to garden design as well. Small size makes it perfect for borders or small space gardens. Drought resistant. Deer resistant.

Blue Atlantic Cedar
Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’
I am quite taken with this tree. Although I have not yet found a home for the Blue Atlantic cedar in my own garden, I use it whenever possible in gardens I design for clients. They make superb focal points in the garden year round and its silver-blue color contrasted with the browns and grays of a winter garden is exceptional.

Fast Facts:
Zones: 3 – 9
Mature Height: 40′ wide by 50′ tall
Type: Evergreen
Growth Rate: Slow
Soil: Average, Well-Drained
Light: Full Sun
Design Contribution: Conical shape and evergreen foliage makes this a good focal point tree. Silver-blue color provides winter interest. Medium to Fast
Soil: Average to Acidic, Consistently Moist and Well-Drained
Light: Full Sun to Light Shade
Design Contribution: Conical shape and evergreen foliage makes this a good focal point tree. Silver-blue color provides winter interest.