Selecting Trees for New Beginnings

          March is the beginning of tree digging season here in the Chicagoland area, but how does our team pick which specimen tree will end up in your landscape?  Our Designers and project management team have spent years learning what trees will thrive under our unique Chicago landscapes.

Any good landscape company starts with analyzing the place we will be installing a tree with the following questions:

  1.   What type of soil does the ground offer? What is the ratio of clay, silt, and sand? 
  2.   How many hours of sun does the intended site receive to existing flora or lack thereof?
  3.   Where does the water flow, leaving it dry or a seasonal retention pond?
  4.   What is the use of the specific site for the tree? This question guides the shape, form, function of the tree selection.
  5.   What options exist after the above questions have been answered related to our hardiness zone 5b (-15° -to -10°F)?

          Every landscape has a function, and every tree must fit into or compliment what is already existing.  If trees are placed and sited properly, we will increase the property value of your home while adding nature’s benefits.  Large deciduous trees provide shade and keep your house cooler in the hot summer months and warm homes with sun in winter.  Evergreen and low branched trees offer seclusion and respite from windy days and buffer noise.  All trees and plants help reduce runoff and carbon emissions as they grow.

          Once all that sitework has been completed we head out to our nursery to find dozens, if not hundreds of selected trees.  How do we pick which one?  We start with the tree’s form.  Is it a lollipop tree, a vase shape, or one-sided tree?  Trees will keep a similar form as it grows and fits into the vision of the landscape design, but don’t select that tree just yet.  Examine the head, shoulders, knees and toes of the tree.  The head of the tree should contain a dominant or single leader at the top to avoid possible splitting in winter months.  The shoulders, examine branches that have grown too close together and look for broken limbs.   Broken limbs will become a problem later in the tree’s life and may need to be removed before planting.   A tree’s knees (trunk) may have scars from sun scald or wounds from shipping.  The tree may never recover or forever struggle and look sick, if severe enough.   The toes (roots) are the hardest to spot and are the most important.  Look for pot bound or overlapping roots that as they grow and become larger may prevent any good-looking tree from establishing itself.

          Late March, April, and early May are the best months for selecting and digging trees. These months are the busiest and best months for us to make a landscape design become a reality.  How can we bring trees and the art of fine gardening to your home?

Alexander Buvala, Plant Procurer