The wonder of trees

Planting: No other garden element can give us such hope for the future and provide so many benefits.

November 04, 2001|By Kathy Van Mullekom | Kathy Van Mullekom,Special to the Sun

Trees are special creatures in our world. They stand for strength, represent time and give us comfort.

Many people plant trees to mark occasions. A new tree can grow with a child; plot the child's growth on its trunk. A shade tree can improve a home for a newlywed couple.

Best of all, trees can be planted to give us hope for the future and times of peace. Call them Freedom Trees, if you want.

Now is a good time to plant a tree you've wanted to add to your landscape. Planting trees and shrubs during fall lets their roots establish during the slower-growing days of winter.

A tree offers many benefits, says the National Arbor Day Foundation:

* Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air, provide us with oxygen and give songbirds a home.

* A windbreak of evergreen trees can lower heating bills 10 to 20 percent.

* Many flowering trees produce nectar and fruits for wildlife.

* Shade trees planted east and west of your home can cut cooling costs 15 to 35 percent.

* Street trees shade the concrete, helping to cool a neighborhood.

* Nut trees produce nutritious treats.

* A backyard orchard lets you grow your own fruit.

Before buying a tree for your yard, give careful thought to what role it will play. Avoid locating a tree that drops flowers, pods or leaves near your patio or deck; instead locate it at a distance so you can sit and admire its beauty from afar.

Place shade trees so they will not crowd your home and its roof, but close enough that they can still give you cooling benefits.

Select trees that are hardy and resistant to disease and pests. Tough city trees include: Japanese zelkova, oaks, redbud, red maple, golden-rain tree, 'Little Gem' magnolia, sweet bay magnolia, male ginkgo, crape myrtle and Japanese black pine.

These and other trees good for flowers, fall color, wet and dry sites, sun or salt conditions, and low-pest needs are listed in the new book The New York / Mid-Atlantic Gardener's Book of Lists ($18.95) by Bonnie Appleton, horticulture professor at Virginia Tech's research and extension center in Virginia Beach.

Appleton encourages homeowners and businesses to employ only tree companies that are certified by the International Society of Arborists and that carry proper insurance. She also says to avoid using tree companies that still use incorrect procedures such as tree topping, flush cutting and use of tree wound materials. Your closest extension-agent office probably offers free literature that describes proper pruning techniques.

Kathy Van Mullekom is a reporter with the Daily Press, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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