Tree Care Tips for the Tree of Life: Arborvitae (thuja occidentalis)

Arborvitaes are among the most popular trees to plant because of their numerous benefits, including their fast growth, tall heights, and year-round green foliage. In fact, arborvitae is a Latin form of the French phrase “l’abre de vie,” or “tree of life.” Arborvitaes prove this to be true through their versatility in tolerating a wide range of soils and climate conditions.

American-ArborvitaerowArborvitae trees are a great choice if you’re looking to install a windbreak or natural privacy fence. There are numerous varieties to choose from, including American Arborvitae, Emerald Arborvitae and Green Giant Arborvitae. If you’re looking for fast growth then you might lean toward the green giant arborvitae, growing three feet a year and reaching up to 50-60 feet in height at maturity. If you don’t mind the wait and prefer something with a narrower spread, then you’ll appreciate the uniformity of American arborvitae.

Despite being low-maintenance, arborvitaes still need some care. Here are a few tree care tips to foster the best growth for your arborvitae in its early years.

Environmental conditions for fast growth

Depending on the variety of arborvitae you select, you’ll want to be sure to plant trees approximately three feet apart to avoid root crowding and competition of nutrients and water; even trees don’t like to starve.

  • Arborvitaes do best in soil that is well drained but moist, rich and deep
  • pH of 6.0 (slightly acidic) to 8.0 (alkaline)
  • Full sun exposure is ideal, but they will grow in partial shade
  • Geographic regions with high humidity

Tree Pruning

green giant arborvitaeArborvitaes dense foliage provides sufficient privacy and at the same time are attractive additions to landscaping. Many arborvitaes take on a nice pyramid shape without pruning. If you must prune then limit it to once a year and keep the following in mind:

  • Prune in the fall or early winter, if pruned in the summer the tips of the pruned branches may turn brown
  • Never remove more than ¼ of a tree’s crown in a season
  • Ideally, main side branches should be at least 1/3 smaller than the diameter of the trunk

It may not be a sour idea to read Keys to Good Pruning just to be sure you’re not crippling them.

Potential threats

  • In times of drought, tree watering is important, but too much of a good thing can be bad so don’t overdo it (Proper Summer Watering of Trees has some helpful ideas)
  • Young landscape trees will need protection from deer in many areas, consider a Tubex tree shelter to keep wildlife away
  • Pest and Disease Problems: Bagworms are sometimes attracted to this species, but can be removed by hand in winter, or controlled with a biological pesticide
  • In forest or land development situations, large openings can lead to windthrow—trees uprooted or broken by wind— due to its shallow root system

Whichever selection you go with be sure to nurture your tree with proper care.

Check out additional Tree Care Tips & Techniques or share some in the comments below.

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.

Inviting all butterflies! Create an oasis designed for them!

It is no coincidence that every time you see a butterfly, a smile stretches across your face. They are exquisite flutters of color that glide flower to flower-pollinating plants around them.  If you find yourself wanting to invite butterflies into your garden, keep reading to find out what trees and shrubs they are attracted to!

Butterflies feel welcome almost anywhere, but only if you know what they are looking for – sources of food, shelter and water. Trees and shrubs bear fruit, nuts and berries while also offering shelter and breeding places.

The best way to attract butterflies to your garden is to start with a variety of flowering and fruit trees and shrubs. We recommend choosing a mixture of both prolific bloomers and those that have a long bloom time. Butterflies attracted to the following recommendations include American lady, silvery blue, zebra swallowtail, Compton tortoiseshell, and northern pearly eye- some containing more specific species.

zebra swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail by Shenandoah National Park

sweetbay magIn spring, sweetbay magnolias produce a profusion of creamy white flowers that carry a light lemon scent. Working well as a patio tree, it flowers best in full sun exposure and yields clusters of red fruit. Sweetbay magnolias attract different types of butterflies such as the tiger and zebra swallowtail.

silvery blue
Silvery Blue by Brad Smith

 

eastern redbudMany butterflies visit the eastern redbud because it is one of the earliest trees to bloom in the spring. A few species that are drawn to it include silvery blue, zebra swallowtail and dreamy duskywing. Its nectar and pollen attract butterflies necessary for a small healthy orchard or a vegetable garden.

white

White Admiral by Brad Smith

pink dogwoodThe pink dogwood blooms in April and May and produces a glossy red fruit that ripen in the fall.  The blossoms attract butterflies such as the American snout, white admiral and banded hairstreak.

american lady

American Lady by John Flannery

‘Blue Chip is one of the many butterfly bushes but has some unique characteristics – namely its noninvasive behavior and compact size. Sweetly scented flowers continuously bloom from midsummer through fall-attracting all types of butterflies like the American Lady. This butterfly bush is perfect for landscaping along a pathway, too.bluechip

Welcome these lovely friends into your garden by offering what they need. Visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Nursery to find more variety of trees and shrubs, perfect for your butterfly oasis. Get a discount on all of your trees when you become an Arbor Day Foundation member.

Soak it in! Designing your own rain garden is easy

Have you been thinking about adding a rain garden to your landscaping? Well, this is the perfect time! In spring, the soil is softer to dig and the rainy weather contributes to the initial watering. Rain gardens are a beautiful way to enhance your landscape both visually and sustainably — benefiting everyone. So let’s get started!

Raingarden buildA rain garden is a garden in a shallow depression made to naturally gather and filter rain water -designed to temporarily collect storm water runoff from roofs, driveways, walkways, patios, and lawns. Once the water is collected, it percolates down into the soil, which is then absorbed by trees, shrubs and other plants – cleaning the water of pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers. Rain gardens are also a natural habitat for butterflies, birds and beneficial insects. We call that a win-win!

When choosing a rain garden site, first, decide where the rain garden will be filtering storm water from such as a downspout, driveway or sump pump. This area should receive water regularly from its source during a rainstorm. Also, make sure to choose a garden site that is at least 10 feet away from building foundations and septic system to avoid storm water from leaking into these areas.

Determine your hardiness zone before picking out your trees and shrubs. Knowing which hardiness zone you live in will clarify which trees will grow properly in your area. Also, select plants that will add beauty but also have the ability to thrive in wet areas. Find information on trees and shrubs through the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Guide.

Sweetbay MagnoliaOne recomendation we have for your design is the sweetbay magnolia, thriving in zones 5-9. Its creamy white flowers have a light lemon scent and are visible in late spring and early summer. Bright scarlet-red seeded fruit ripens in the fall attracting a variety of songbirds.

Redosier DogwoodAnother colorful choice is the redosier dogwood. It has a wide range of tolerance except for extremely dry conditions. Its fibrous root system provides effective erosion control on banks and slopes. The shrub also has vibrant red stems that remain in winter-adding color all year round in zones 2-7.

Another bird-friendly option is the prairifire flowering crabapple. Long-lasting spring blossoms add variety and color to the year-round beauty it offers. Withstanding climates in zones 3-8, this ornamental is disease-resistant and able to adapt to many different conditions.Flowering Crabapple

In the final steps of designing a rain garden, dig the desired area and arrange the spacing of plants according to their directions.  Mulch the area with woodchips that won’t float away and apply so it is two to three inches deep. Remember to water!

Most importantly, while your plants are soaking in the water, you can soak in the splendor you have just created! Visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Nursery to find a wide variety of trees and shrubs, perfect for your rain garden. 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.

Tree and Shrub Rain Garden Design

Tree and Shrub Rain Garden Design

Turn a moist or poorly drained area of your yard into a beautiful garden that provides year round color and habitat for songbirds. The trees and shrubs in this design have been selected both for their beauty and their ability to thrive in moist areas.

Rain Garden Specifications:

Included Species:

1 – Sweetbay Magnolia

3 – Redosier Dogwood

3 – Winterberry Holly

Hardiness Zone:

5-7

Read more…

Top Trees for Winter Landscaping

Many gardeners are proud of their spring, summer and autumn gardens, but they find winter landscape design very difficult.  

There are many trees and shrubs which may add a lot of color with their red or yellow berries, or unusual bark hues.  Others, like evergreen trees, add visual interest in black and white landscape.  Many of those trees attract wild birds providing them with food and shelter. 

When you are looking for your winter trees, choose trees with berries, lovely bark or interesting branch pattern. 

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Fall Foliage Trees: The Good, the Bad and the Invasive

We take our consolations in life where we can. I live in a cold climate and dislike the onset of winter, which brings harsh weather, along with shoveling snow, scraping ice off car windshields, etc. As if the dreariness and the drudgery weren’t bad enough, winter robs me of one of my chief passions in life: my outdoor plants. Oh, sure, I can still enjoy my evergreen shrubs and ornamental grass; and other plants inject some visual interest into the winter landscape via interesting branching patterns and whatnot. But none of this makes up for the loss I’ve suffered. I’ll mourn till spring.

That’s why I drain every ounce of satisfaction out of fall foliage season. Whether it’s “leaf peeping” on vacation or selecting superior fall foliage plants for my own yard, fall foliage is a big deal to this Hyperborean: It’s my ultimate consolation as another long winter stares me in the face.

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Smoketree

If you should ever find yourself luxuriating in the French Riviera, and in the unlikely event you grow tired of the sand and sea, a walk in the hills will introduce you to the unique woodlands of the Mediterranean.   There, among the scrubby oaks and umbrella pines you will find a familiar bush or small tree, the European smoketree – in its native environment.

There are only two species of trees in the genus Cotinus.  One is the American smoketree, the other is its close relative from Europe.  For both, their claim to fame is the wispy clumps of filaments that look all the world like smoke.  The mirage has given rise to other names such as mist tree, cloud tree, wig tree, and Jupiter’s beard.  By whatever name, the site of this tree is what Minnesota garden writer Don Engebretson has called “one of the most arresting shrubs available to…gardeners today.”
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