Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Top Ten Favorite Tall Trees for your Landscape

  OK, I started this blog a couple of days ago... I guess it's about time I wrote about some things I really do know about.  In this post I am going to concentrate on tall trees.  In future articles I will list medium trees, speciman trees, different shrubs, groundcovers, and flowers.  Also it is important to note that different trees perform differently (or not at all) in different hardiness zones.  I get irritated when I read articles like published in landscaping.about.com.  That bozo is hired as a writer, but he doesn't know enough to survive in my business.  They place more emphasis on a degree in journalism than horticulture.  A frequent mistake he makes is to paint everyone (every climate) with the same brush (same landscaping advice).  Even in my limited area of Greenville and Spartanburg, SC - there are landscape opportunites in which a specific tree normally thought of as good for our zone - would not be a good tree for that spot.  The top ten trees I have chosen should do well in zones 6,7 and 8.
  My advice about tree selection:  (well, my primary advice would be to hire a Landscape Architect or qualified landscape designer to assist you with your planning)
  • Decide what size tree or trees you want and where you want them.  Remember to consider their size at maturity.  Most tall trees like on my list need at least 30 feet in between each one.
  • Select your top 3 favorites.
  • Discuss these favorites with your landscaper or nurseryman.  They will tell you what is best.
OK, here's a list of my favorites:
  1. October Glory Red Maple - Acer rubrum 'October Glory Maple' - This is a good oval rounded form that grows 40 to 50 feet tall.  It looks good in the spring and summer, outstanding color in the fall. To encourage a taller, better look, I like to prune the lower branches every fall for the first 2-5 years.  I like to be able to reach the lowest branch, but not hit it with my head.
  2. Legacy Sugar Maple - Acer saccharum 'Legacy Sugar Maple' - A beautiful, drought resistant tree that needs little care.  Grows 60-80 feet tall.
  3. London Plane Tree - Plantanus x acerifolia - A fairly fast growing beautiful shade tree.  The scaly bark is one of it's attributes.  Probably best to plant this away from your house, walks and streets.  It needs plenty of room.  Mature height can be over 100 feet.
  4. Green Vase Zelkova - Zelkova serrata 'Green Vase Zelkova' - The University of Florida describes this tree perfectly... "'Green Vase' somewhat resembles the vase shape of American Elms, is more upright in habit and tolerant of pollution, makes a great city street tree.  Zelkova is often listed as a replacement for American Elm since it has roughly the same vase shape and grows 70 to 80 feet tall with a 50 to 60-foot spread. Zelkova is massive, with the trunk capable of growing to four feet or more in diameter. It has a moderate growth rate and likes a sunny exposure. Branches are more numerous and smaller in diameter than American Elm. Major branches grow very upright and provide easy clearance for tall vehicles below making it quite suitable as a street tree. Leaves are 1.5 to 4 inches long, turning a brilliant burnt umber in the fall."
  5. Cryptomeria - 'Cryptomeria japonica' - Tall, fast growing evergreen tree that is ideal to plant along a property line for privacy.  If you are thinking of a Leyland Cypress - Don't! - plant Cryptomeria instead.  (Space 6-8 feet apart for a healthy hedge.  If you plant them too close their health in the long run will not be so good.)
  6. Green Giant Arborvitae - Thuja plicata 'Green Giant Arborvitae' - Same use and similar growth as Cryptomeria but more of a 'cedar' look.
  7. Willow Oak - Quercus phellos 'Willow Oak' - My favorite Oak.  Easy to grow, few problems in our area.
  8. Brackens Brown Beauty Magnolia - Magnolia grandiflora 'Brackens Brown Beauty' - Since I knew Mr. Bracken personally, maybe I am prejudiced.  This is a beautiful tall evergreen with occasional large white blooms.  You need a lot of area to plant this - at least 40 feet from the nearest tree, house, sidewalk or street.
  9. Cherokee Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua 'Cherokee Sweetgum' - This is a seedless (no gumballs) version of a stately tall hardwood.  It is an upright tree that can be planted within 15 feet of other obstacles.   
  10. Deodor Cedar - Cedrus deodara 'Deodar Cedar' - Very large growing - "Christmas Tree" look.
Two very good websites for more information about trees:


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