First published in the Arlington Advocate on May 7, 2105.
“How do I choose a tree for my yard?” Choosing a tree is like choosing a partner—you live with your decision a long time. So make your choice carefully. Here are a few thoughts to help you analyze your situation and choose the right tree for the right place.
Where do you want to plant a tree? This picture shows a tree too close to the house and branches overhanging the wall and roof. Problems: potential storm damage, animal access to your roof, moss and mildew on the roof, potential root damage to driveway paving and foundation.
To avoid this, measure the area where you want to plant a tree. Trees with a mature height of 25 feet should be planted a minimum of 10 to 20 feet from the house, depending on tree width at maturity. The tree at maturity should not extend beyond your lot line and should not touch or overhang the house.
- Use small- or medium-size varieties for smaller houses and yards.
- Put smaller trees near the house and taller ones farther out in a larger yard.
- Plant deciduous trees so they will shade either east-facing walls and windows from 7 to 11 a.m. or west-facing surfaces from 3 to 7 p.m. during June, July, and August to improve energy conservation.
- Plant trees to provide shade to paved areas and air conditioners to reduce the cost of cooling.
- Research the height and width of the tree at maturity before you buy. Don’t rely on nursery plant tags.
- Choose a tree that corresponds to the hours of sunlight available in the location you have selected to plant your new tree.
For lists of trees that show varying light requirements and size at maturity, go to https://ag.umass.edu/fact-sheets/right-plant-right-place-plant-selection-guide-for-managed-landscapes. The lists include small, medium, and large shade trees; flowering trees; fruiting trees; trees for dry or damp soils; trees for part shade; trees for narrow areas, for hedges, and for screening; and trees with interesting bark or that provide winter interest. There is also information about needled evergreens, broadleaf evergreens, and shrubs, vines, and groundcovers.
Arborday.org provides good tools to make choosing a tree easy. They offer a collection of trees that suit a particular purpose, such as the spring color collection. This includes a Kousa Dogwood, a Saucer Magnolia, a Star Magnolia, and an Eastern Redbud. You can purchase small trees (</= 4 ft) from Arbor Day at http://shop.arborday.org/category.aspx?zcid=163 or visit a nursery or arboretum to see larger versions of the trees. Armed with the knowledge of how large a space you have, you can choose a tree that you will be happy with for years.
“Arlington Tree Matters” is a column of the Arlington Tree Committee.