Who among us has not heard about the need to grow green? Perhaps one of the most effective things that any of us can do to improve the quality of life on this planet is to plant a tree. It need not be large at the time of planting. It need not be expensive but in the long run a tree will have more effect than even the gardens that we so lovingly tend. I like many of you lost trees during the October surprise of 2006. This past winter the skeletons of still living but damaged trees was again a stark reminder of that terrible time. During the past two years we have planted a linden tree, a crimson clump maple, a pea tree, and a tulip tree. The tulip tree was only a sapling given to me by a fellow master Gardener. Already it is establishing itself in the yard. We will long be gone when it reaches maturity but won't it be one beautiful tree?
Why trees? Trees give our gardens structure. Trees moderate heat generated by roads, sidewalks, and buildings. Trees give us privacy, block out views we'd rather not see, and reduce the glare of the sun. Trees trap pollutants from the air. They absorb carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global change. They use the carbon dioxide in the food producing process of photosynthesis and produce oxygen as a by product. The oxygen is then released into the atmosphere. Got drainage problems? A mature deciduous tree takes up about 600 gallons of water each year. This reduces runoff and flooding. Trees improve the habitat for birds and other animals. If all of this doesn't convince you then think of times you may have walked in a forest and felt the peace that mature trees generate.
So what kind of trees should you plant? The answer is native species. Please consider not planting the following species as they are invasive in New York State. Invasive trees include Norway maple, black locust, Russian olive, Smooth Buckthorn, and Tree of Heaven. ( I have to confess that we did have a beautiful Norway maple in our yard. It was planted almost forty years ago when we didn't know any better. Now we do.) The problem here is that these species easily escape cultivated areas by being carried by birds wind, or people. When introduced into forests they displace native trees making it more and more difficult for native bird, insect, and mammal populations to survive. For example Norway Maples displace native species such as Sugar maples and Red maples. Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is bad enough on a private property where its rampant growth can take over and clog sewers. In the forest Tree of Heaven creates thickets so dense nothing else can grow. I cringe when I see plantings of Russian olive. Well meaning people plant Russian Olive because it attracts birds but the birds spread the seeds. If unchecked it is almost impossible to get rid of! Consider planting spicebush, arrowwood, or witch hazel. Remember all buckthorns are not a problem only the smooth. Feel comfortable planting elderberries, and Juneberries instead.
Have a larger property? Consider ordering bundles of tree seedlings from the Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District. This year thirty-four one to three year old varieties of shrubs and trees were available in lots of ten to five hundred. They also offered four-year old evergreens as well as wildflower seed mixes.