Chinese Pistache: There’s More Than Meets the Eye

(Pistacia chinensis)

112_lg_3[1]Sometimes nicknamed the ‘ugly duckling’ in the tree world, the Chinese pistache is often snubbed because of its unattractive and misshapen early stages. Although born into rough beginnings, the tree develops into an impressive specimen. It’s a hardy tree and commonly used in dry landscapes.

As the name predicts, the Chinese pistache is related to the pistachio tree, although it does not produce any nuts. Not only is this tree heat and drought-tolerant, but it is also winter hardy AND pest and fire resistant. Talk about resilience! Here are a few things to note if you’re looking to add one to your yard.

112_lg_2[1]Environmental Factors

  • Grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and clay soils (hardiness zones 6-9).
  • Grows 1-2 feet a year, reaching 25-35 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least 6 hours of direct unfiltered sunlight a day

Physical Attributes

  • Produces panicles of greenish flowers in April & May.
  • Withstands heat quite well and tolerates urban conditions.
  • Provides vibrant fall foliage with shades of orange and red.

Do you have a Chinese pistache? Share a picture!

Sourwood: A Sweet Surprise

(Oxydendrum arboretum)

What if there were a tree with scented flowers and tart leaves that shaded you from the sun’s heat in the summer and amused you with vibrant foliage in the fall, would you be interested? The sourwood tree does just that. This tree is exclusive to North America and isn’t found on other continents unless planted there. Named after the tangy flavor of its leaves, the sourwood tree is full of wonder. Sourwood blossom

Mountain climbers and hikers quench their thirst by making tea with sourwood leaves, and pioneers used the sap in a mixture for treating fevers. Agonizing from mouth pain? Early settlers chewed the bark as relief from mouth ulcers. Additionally, bees make honey from the nectar of sourwood flowers—rumor has it sourwood honey is among the best quality. Aside from the natural remedies sourwood boasts, this tree is a natural beauty. Check out a few of these tree care tips if you’re considering adding a sourwood for your yard.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows 1-2 feet a year, reaching 25-30 feet at maturity.
  • Although it is native to the south, it will grow in a variety of hardiness zones (5-9).
  • Prefers normal moisture but has some drought tolerance. Grows in acidic, loamy, moist, well-drained and clay soils. Avoid alkaline or compacted soils.
  • Does best in full sun, getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day, but will tolerate partial shade.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, white flowers in late summer (June to early July) that resemble lilies-of-the-valley.
  • Can live up to 200 years if planted at the right site.
  • Bees produce high quality honey from the blossoms of the tree that is said to have a caramel or buttery flavor.
  • Offers vibrant fall color with leaves turning crimson, purplish-red and sometimes yellow. The numerous uses that stem from the sourwood give this tree some merit. Its shorter height make it a great contender to plant in your yard, or in front of a backdrop of taller trees.

Do you have a sourwood? Share a picture below!

Washington Hawthorn: A Blossom Amongst Thorns

 (crataegus phaenopyrum)

Washington-Hawthorn_1-846[1]If you’re looking to fill in the open spaces in your yard, or just add a bit of color to your landscaping, the Washington hawthorn is a great option. First introduced to Pennsylvania from Washington, the tree earned its name because of its prominent thorns.

Legend has it that Paul Bunyan used the Washington hawthorn’s branches as a back scratcher. Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding one to your landscape.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows 1-2 feet a year reaching 25-30 feet at maturity.
  • Versatile tree, growing in a wide variety of hardiness zone (4-8).
  • Prefers full sun (6 hours of direct sunlight a day).
  • Drought-tolerant, grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms white flowers with reddish-purple leaves.
  • Produces bright red berries that hang until the winter. It is popular amongst birds.
  • Develops thorns on its branches, making it an effective barrier.
washington hawthorn berry

Flickr | Taryn Domingos

Do you have a Washington hawthorn in your yard? Share a picture below!

Texas Ebony: The Deciduous Evergreen

Flickr | Dick Culbert

(Pithecellobium flexicaule)

Although summer may be dwindling down, the heat of the sun and limited rainfall is not backing off. This year’s current conditions could be a hint to what next summer will be like. If you’re planning ahead for alternative ways to stay cool in the long-run, then planting a tree is the way to go.

As the name implies, the Texas ebony is native to Texas and only grows in the southwest region of the country. This tree has several unique traits, a notable one being that it doesn’t drop its leaves. If you’re searching for The Right Tree in the Right Place and are limited on space, then check out what this tree can offer to your landscape.

Environmental conditions

  • Grows in several different soils including acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained and clay. Can survive in the driest conditions once tree is established.
  • Grows at medium growth rate of 1-2 feet a year, and can reach anywhere from 35-80 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes

  • This is an evergreen tree and keeps its dense foliage year-round.
  • Blooms fragrant, creamy white and yellow flowers and has 4-6 inch brown seed pods. Fun fact: the seeds have been dried and made into jewelry and shells have been used as an alternative to coffee.
  • Can grow in compact spaces, making it a practical choice if you don’t have a lot of yard space. (Has a spread of 20-30 feet).The Texas ebony is a wonderful tree if you’re looking for shade but don’t have the space. You get the benefit of a larger shade tree with its dense foliage and colorful flowers, and the advantage of an evergreen with year-round foliage

    TX ebony leaves

    Flickr | Wendy Cutler

Do you have a Texas ebony? Share a picture below!

 

 

 

 

Desert-Willow: The Tree That Blooms in Drought

(Chilopsis linearis)

desert willow flower

Flickr | Gailhampshire

Mother Nature doesn’t always work in our favor when it comes to nurturing our garden. Although many plants adapt to unpredictable environmental conditions, there are still a number of trees and shrubs that are too stubborn to conform. It can be especially challenging to landscape your yard if you live in an arid climate where water is scarce. The selections are limited, and planting a tree outside of your hardiness zone isn’t wise.

The Desert-Willow is quite deceiving; despite the name this tree has no relation to the willow other than its resembling appearance.  In fact, unlike willows, this tree cannot grow in wet or heavy soils. As the name implies, desert-willows prefer dry conditions and full sun. They are an extremely drought-tolerant species once established. If you’ve been struggling to find a flowering tree resilient enough to put up with the heat, then check out a few of the qualities this tree can bring to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • Desert-willow is a medium growing tree, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 15-25 feet in height.
  • This tree loves full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • It is a versatile tree and will grow in most soils as long as it is well drained. This includes acidic, alkaline, loamy, sandy and clay. Grows in hardiness zones 7-9. 

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, pink flowers midsummer and has 10” papery pods that hang in the winter. Note that these pods will drop seeds and attract wildlife.
  • Usually develops multiple trunks and many branches, making it useful as a wide screen or tall hedge.  Added bonus: the tree can be pruned into a bush. The more it is pruned, the more it flowers.
  • Have willow-like leaves that are long and slender.
desert willow pods

Flickr | Jason Hollinger

If you’re in the Western United States then you may not be a stranger to the desert-willow. It’s a versatile tree that can add color to your landscape. Do you have one in your yard? Share a picture below!

What you should know before planting a sycamore

Largest Sycamore

Flickr | Ted Van Pelt

Choosing the Right Tree in the Right Place can be a daunting task. Should I plant a fruit tree or flowering? Will it be fast growing or slow? Will it even grow in my zone?

There are numerous factors to consider with each tree. Here are a few more things to note if you’re flirting with the idea of adding a sycamore tree to the family.

  • There are 10 species of sycamore, most of them sharing similar characteristics.
  • Sycamore trees are majestic in nature, averaging 40-100 feet in height and spreading 40-70 feet in width.
  • They are fast growing, growing more than two feet a year.
  • With its natural inclination to establish a sturdy trunk, it tends to have an aggressive root system, so be prepared to plant your sycamore at least 15 feet from your house or sidewalk. Planting it too close to surrounding structures not only threatens the tree’s health, but you also risk spending a bunch of money repairing any damage it may do to your home’s water lines, foundation, or driveway.
  • Some sycamores develop multiple trunks.
  • These trees are nicknamed “buttonball” trees because of the 1-inch balls that hang from the tree. These dry, hairy fruits hang in groups of 2-7 and encase small seeds. Their fruits will also drop in the fall.
  • Sycamores are among the oldest species of trees on Earth, known for their longevity and hardiness.

 

Sycamore Seed Strand

Flickr| Curandera vision

Sycamore trees can add character to your landscape, with their ashy white bark and lush green foliage. They also house food and nesting sites for birds including red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds.

Do you have a Sycamore tree? Share a picture in the comments.

One tree, two trees, my trees are small trees!

Planting in small areas can be challenging, especially if you want to add some height to your landscape. Consider adding small trees that will excite your senses!

Small trees are perfect for any landscape and add color to entry ways, curbs, and long sidewalks. These small trees are sure to standout and add charm next to your home every spring and some even all year round! Continue reading to discover which small trees have caught our interest.

Smoketree_1-920The mutli-stemmed smoketree holds true to its name- growing blooms that are wispy clumps of filaments. This easy-to-grow specimen turns a smoky pink color from June through August. Growing 10’ to 15’, it is a good choice for a shrub border or other grouping.

Ann-Magnolia_1-860The ann magnolia is a member of the “Little Girl” group of hybrid magnolias developed in the mid-50s at the U.S. National Arboretum. Its profusion of deep purple-red blossoms resemble tulips and bloom in mid-to late March.  Sometimes, the tree blooms again in the summer. At maturity, the Ann magnolia grows to a height of 8’ to 10’.

Japanese-Red-Maple_1-866After 300 years of cultivation, the Japanese red maple is still a beloved tree. It offers a warm touch of red to any yard in the spring and fall, and features a green summer leaf. Red, winged seeds attract squirrels, chipmunks, quail and songbirds. This taller landscape tree matures to about 15’ to 25’.

Purpleleaf-Sand-Cherry_1-816Purpleleaf sand cherry  tree‘s year-round beauty and smaller size makes it an excellent choice for landscaping. Its fragrant white and pink flowers blossom in spring while featuring simple leaves with an intense reddish-purple color. The small yields of plump red berries are an important food source for small birds and mammals including robins and cardinals. The Purpleleaf matures to 15’ to 25’.

Downy-Serviceberry_1-919A phenomenal large shrub that can be trained into a single trunk tree is the downy serviceberry. The combination of flowers, vibrant fall foliage and wildlife value will add lots of visual enjoyment to your yard. This wonderful little tree reaches 15′ to 25′ at maturity and produces plump red berries for pies, preserves and fresh eating.

Did your favorite small tree make the list? If not, share your favorite in the comments!

Before you start planting, get helpful tips and information on tree care, and to find out which trees grow best in each hardiness zone. You can find all of these trees and more in our Tree Nursery. Get a discount on all of your trees when you become an Arbor Day Foundation member.

John Royster, Landscape Architect – Omaha, Nebraska

Enersen1bJohn Royster has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to serving his community as a tree planter, promoter and protector. One of John’s childhood memories is of his interest in the conservation projects on his grandfather’s farms. John built on this interest by helping care for trees as a Cub Scout. Later, as a college student, he served as a park ranger engaged in planting projects. John eventually earned a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at Kansas State University.

During his 30 year career as a landscape architect, John Royster has been committed to conservation.  By focusing on trees, one site at a time, John has made a profound impact on the Omaha region and beyond.  He’s made public engagement a priority, providing a platform to educate people about the importance of their actions to environmental quality.

In 1989, John worked with the Arbor Day Foundation to develop the site plan for the development of Arbor Day Farm, which served as the roadmap for this National Historic Landmark.

John has worked with several nonprofits, such as Girls Incorporated of Omaha, the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, Omaha by Design, and the Arbor Day Foundation, among others. John has never been afraid of getting his hands dirty. If a planting project needs to be done and John is around, you’ll likely find him in the thick of it.

Omaha-DowntownFor nearly a decade, John worked with Omaha by Design — an urban design and environmental nonprofit dedicated to enhancing Omaha’s economic development potential by improving the quality of its physical environment as an avenue to a better quality-of-life. John served as a voice for trees and conservation as a way to attract people to — and keep people in – Omaha, a Tree City USA community.

Connie Spellman, Director, Omaha by Design, said, “John’s enduring respect for the natural environment is evident in every project he touches. His passion for sustainable design helped us develop the tenets to which we remain committed a decade later.”

For his lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation leadership in greater Omaha, John Royster is the recipient of the 2015 Lawrence Enersen Award. This year’s Arbor Day Award ceremony will be held at Lied Lodge & Conference Center, located at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

Spring into action! Are you ready for the spring planting season?

Spring is nearly here and we couldn’t be more excited. Soon we will be enjoying the beautiful colors and fragrances of spring trees and shrubs – like the dogwood, Japanese flowering cherry and of course the lilacs.

Japanese Cherry Bloss

Japanese flowering cherry

Now is the perfect time begin your spring planting planning and ordering! The Arbor Day Foundation Online Tree Nursery has a large array of affordable trees and shrubs. You will find fast-growing trees, flowering trees, fruit trees and every tree in between. And we will send your trees to you during the optimal time to plant in your zone, ensuring their health and longevity.

Or maybe you need some landscape design inspiration? Arborday.org has free, professionally designed landscape plans that focus on trees and shrubs, available to download for free. For example, we have a plan called flowering green giant, this a design plan combining a beautifully contrasting trio of trees—the rich green of a green giant arborvitae, the sprightly, springtime yellow of forsythia, and the dazzling profusion of white blooms that grace the yoshino cherry tree. Other designs include the a bird-attracting tree/shrub combination (Bird Magnet Hedgerow), a blooming shrub plan set beneath an existing shade tree (Shrubs Under a Shade Tree) , a flowering tree/hedge plan planted along an existing wood line (Flowering Woods Edge) – just to name a few.

Bird Magnet Design

Bird Magnet Hedgerow Design

If you already have your trees and are ready to plant consider reading our 9 Tree Care Tips & Techniques, an easy-to-follow guide that takes you step by step from selecting and planting the right tree, to the care and upkeep of a mature tree. Remember, what you do to your tree in its first few years of life will affect its shape, strength, and even its life span. Planting done with care and some knowledge of trees and their needs will help your trees grow more rapidly and live at least twice as long as improperly planted trees.

Finally, before you get that hole dug and your new tree planted, make sure you’ve got “Right Tree in the Right Place.” Planting an appropriate tree in an appropriate location is vital for the health and longevity of the tree as well as your satisfaction with it—for example, a tree too close to the house could be a hazard, and a tree with “too-tall” potential will be unlikely to remain if it interferes with a power line overhead.

Right Tree Right Place

Are you gearing up for spring planting season? What do you plan to plant this year? Please let us know in the comments.

Can the Latest Advancement in Urban Infrastructure Benefit Your City?

One of the most common problems urban trees face is having sufficient soil and space to properly grow. Crowded cities make it challenging to mimic the natural environment in which trees thrive. Thanks to emerging green technology, cities are beginning to implement greener practices in construction that are saving cities tree repair costs down the road and creating a healthier setting for trees to grow.

silvaCell2[1]

Silva cells allow water and nutrients to reach tree roots through loose soil.

Ordinarily when trees are planted in metropolitan settings they are buried under hard surfaces such as sidewalks and roads. These surfaces have to be robust enough to handle heavy vehicles. Naturally, the result of such weight is soil compaction. Soil compaction constricts water, air, and nutrients from reaching the roots, stunting the growth of trees and even leading to structural failures.

In 2007 DeepRoot introduced the Silva cell —the first commercially available soil containment system to be used in construction that supports heavy asphalt surfaces without compacting soil surrounding tree roots — a breakthrough in urban infrastructure.

So how does it work?

photo 4

Silva cells being installed in Lincoln, NE

The rigid frame is designed like a modular suspended pavement by transferring above ground loads down to a compacted sub-base while the inside of the system is filled with loose soil for roots to access. In addition to the loose soil, the system also acts as a stormwater management system, absorbing runoff and storing a large amount of water, creating an underground rain garden.

While the technology is new and still evolving, there have been more than 500 installations of Silva cells in 10 different countries. The results have been outstanding with reports of healthy tree growth, including longer bud extensions and trees flourishing to full maturity.

Lincoln, Nebraska is participating in the trend with four installations of Silva Cells at construction sites, including near the Arbor Day Foundation headquarter offices.

Is your city installing Silva cells? What other approaches is your city implementing to promote healthy urban and community forests? You may also enjoy reading our How to Save Trees During Construction, a Tree City USA Bulletin.