by Ian Robertson
For the moment let us consider the second option and keep in mind the conditions last summer engulfed us in. Surely trees are really needed, trees are instant, trees are exciting, and trees are good for us. Sounds like a winner at first glance and really it is however there is many a potential slip between the idea and its fruition. Despite our enthusiasm we should first run our thoughts over the following points. Yes I want to plant a tree as badly as you; but just wait a moment.
1. Who is the tree for? Is it your property, the grandparent’s garden, the local school or church, a gift in remembrance of a lost friend or any other cause that has motivated the idea?
2. What do you want the tree to do for you and your neighbors? Yes many trees may well influence the life style of those who live just over your property line. Do you want to have a show of blossom, fall foliage, year round tree bark, shade or possibly screening or framing a view?
3. Where would you like the tree placed if you made the final decision in this regard?
4. When would be the most opportune time, from your point of view, to have the grand planting ceremony? If you have a small ceremony more hands may be available to assist in the task, just make sure you guide them in the finer points of the project.
If you are still on board and have answered the above questions grab your coat and car keys then drive to the closest garden open to the public. For example the botanic gardens of Harrisonburg, Richmond, Norfolk, Washington D.C. Northern Virginia, Maryland suburbs of D.C. or really locally Charlottesville’s U.Va. grounds and the garden of Morea on Sprigg Lane. As you visit find a tree you like the look of for your particular needs, check for a name label and if it is present write it down. Continue this search till a minimum of five potential species have been located.
The next fun task is to return home to use the internet exploring the merits of your choices. Your list may shorten in the process but that is OK. Now either call up two trusted garden friends or go to the seemingly most responsible garden center in your area or call a professional in for their advice. Now do not dither back and forth, make your final choice.
Is that it, am I done? Not yet. Check your potential new acquisition out carefully. Let’s use those numbers again.
5. Ensure the trunk is firm in the container or ball of soil, or does it rock easily back and forth?
6. Are there any wounds on the trunk, mechanical or pest or disease related?
7. Is the branching even around the head of the tree and are there any broken branches.
Next decide who will be planting and whoever you settle on make sure.
8. The tree is still in good condition once it arrives at its final location.
9. A much wider hole is dug than the root diameter but no deeper than the roots depth.
10. Make sure the top of the root is at or just above the surrounding grade.
11. Fill the bottom two thirds of the hole with the excavated soil and firm down.
12. Pour water in till it builds to the top of the hole.
13. Add 25% composted material to the rest of the excavated soil and mix well. Fill the hole to the top of the ball once the water has drained away. Do not form the soil again.
14. Add a one inch layer of composted soil over the disturbed soil area and top off with two inches of your favorite mulching material. Keep the base of the trunk free by one inch of all mulching materials.
Now you can go off and have a cup of tea or coffee and admire the new family member. While in this state of rest you may ask why this entire preamble was necessary. Well consider: a tree is a long time investment, it can be expensive, incorrect placement will be a nag for years to come and choosing the wrong species could become the bane of your garden life. You can easily move a shrub or herbaceous perennial; a tree is a more serious consideration.
The earth needs every tree it can get. Please help by planting one or many, and gain your own personal pleasures from them over the following decades. Finally I suggest finding a copy of a small book by Jean Giono, The Man Who Planted Trees. It is quite a story.