Planting for the Future

Tree lined road at NYBG in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Tree lined road at New York Botanical Garden (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Like silent sentries watching over us, the majestic trees spread across our landscape are hardly given a moments notice. But notice we should. Have you ever considered who lined our country roads with ancient trees? Were the ancestors that planted them thinking of future generations as they tended to each delicate sapling? I’d like to think so.  As a tree geek who never walks – or drives – anywhere without looking at what is growing around me, I confess to getting really excited when I spot a stately old tree with immense girth and limbs reaching toward the universe. I always wonder about its history . . .

American Sycamore reaches skyward in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

American Sycamore reaches skyward (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

One of my favorite hardwood residents is the massive American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), a moisture lover often found near rivers and streams. Known to grow to over 160 feet tall with up to a 13 foot trunk diameter, Platanus occidentalis is recognized as one of the largest Eastern U.S. trees. With maple shaped leaves and speckled bark, there is no mistaking its Appaloosa trunk when contrasted against a crystal blue sky. If you love the unique exfoliating bark of the American Sycamore, but would prefer something slightly smaller with anthracnose disease resistance, consider its fast growing cousin, London Planetree (Platanus × acerifolia ‘Bloodgood’).

Pin Oak offers shade and beauty to the landscape in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Pin Oak provides shade and beauty to the landscape (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Then there is the mighty oak, Quercus, another beauty with a stature and presence not found in many other New England trees. In Eastern North America you will find four species of oak tree; White Oak (Quercus alba), Scarlett Oak (Quercus coccinea), Black Oak (Quercus velutina) and Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), all members of the well known Beech (Fagaceae) family. Each of these oaks produce acorns, tolerate a broad range of soil conditions (Note: Pin Oak prefers moist soil), and can reach upwards of 80 feet tall. Not only does the oak offer incredible structure and form, it has attractive curvy-lobed leaves that turn shades of iron red and coppery gold in fall, while producing a volume of nuts known to support countless varieties of life. It’s biodiversity in a tree.

Eastern White Pine in the landscape in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Eastern White Pine in the landscape (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

For a tree with grandeur and color throughout all the seasons, the Eastern White Pine,(Pinus strobus), is known to quickly (3 – 4 feet annually) reach heights of 20 – 30 feet, with records of over 180 feet and ages between 400 – 500 years.  Not only is the native white pine attractive with its soft bluish-grey needles and broad form, it provides habitat for many animals and birds as well. Its dense branches offer a protected nesting site for native flora, while it has lots of coverage for animals to rest beneath (This year I found a coyote nestled underneath in pine needles waiting out a winter squall). White pine’s prolific pine cones are also a favored snack for birds, squirrels and other overwintering critters.

Protected under the limbs of a Pin Oak in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Protected under the limbs of a Pin Oak (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The backbone of our New England landscape, safe (so far) from diseases that have taken our chestnuts and elms, and most recently the emerald borer threatening our population of ash trees, are trees to be cherished and appreciated . . . And planted wherever space allows! Not only are these wonderful trees an asset to your landscape and the surrounding wildlife, they are a perfect place to have a little picnic . . . protected under their immense limbs on a warm summer day.  What could be better?

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