There is a perfect tree for every spot

February 10, 2011|Celeste Maiorana
  • This white oak tree is situated on a hill well away from structures and the road, it still had to be trimmed away from the utility lines on the opposite side of the road.
This white oak tree is situated on a hill well away from structures and the road, it still had to be trimmed away from the utility lines on the opposite side of the road.

When you plant a tree you are

planting for the future. Your tree will be providing shade and shelter for many decades, or even centuries. Because a tree looks its best when it can assume its natural shape as it grows, it's a good idea to think about your tree's future size and shape before you plant it.

Fortunately, there really is a perfect tree for every spot. Sunny or shady, large or small, boggy or well-drained, there is a young tree that will thrive in the spot you want one to be.

Choosing the right tree is particularly important if you have overhead utility lines on or near your property. Trees are a common cause of power outages. In addition to the cost of cleaning up after storms, utility companies spend a lot of money annually on trimming trees away from the lines. Perhaps you've noticed the strange and unnatural shapes caused by these efforts to keep the trees and protect the lines.

It is also important to know where underground utility lines are located, and to avoid planting over or too near them.

Sun, slope and drainage are important considerations for your choice of tree, too. Some trees — the chestnut oak, as well as the scarlet and black oaks — don't mind being on a steep and stony hillside. Others — bald cypress and green ash — don't mind sitting in water for a few days after a rain. Many trees are widely adapted to varying soil and moisture conditions, therefore, this is rarely as important a consideration as the amount of space that is available for each tree you plant. However, it is important to plant a sun-loving tree in sun and a shade-preferring tree in shade, and to ensure that your location provides any other specific conditions that your tree may need.

Despite the recent snow and ice, spring is in the air. It will soon be time to plant trees. Because our summers are hot and often dry, the earlier you plant your tree, the more likely it is to survive.

Take a look at the Marylanders Plant Trees Program, which makes a $25 contribution toward  your purchase of a tree with a retail value of at least $50 from participating nurseries and garden centers, if you pick a tree from the approved tree list. There are two participating nurseries in Washington County, five in Frederick County and three in Allegheny County. Any retail nursery or garden center can participate, and there is an easy online application. The $25 coupon can be printed from the website also.

Whether or not you participate, if you choose to plant a tree on the Marylanders Plant Trees program's approved tree list, you can be sure that you are choosing a tree that is adapted to our local environmental conditions and will not be invasive to existing forest habitats.

Aldo Leopold, an American ecologist, forester and environmentalist who was influential in the development of modern environmental ethics and the wilderness conservation movement, and the author of the book, A Sand County Almanac, once said "Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel."

 So, choose a site and plant and nurture a tree suitable to that spot. You will be enabling one of nature's truly great creations to flourish for now, for the future.



Author's note: A reader pointed out that in my Jan. 23 column, "Green and red are nature's colors," I used the phrase "as we near our farthest point from our star." Although I was trying to evoke the approach of the December solstice, the point at which those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are most tilted away from the sun, and, therefore, experience our shortest day, the sentence suggests that the earth was approaching its most distant point in its orbit, which occurs in July. The earth is closest to the sun in early January. For a nice review of earth/sun relations, see:

Celeste Maiorana is a member of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board, which promotes forest conservation in Washington County. For more information, go to

More sites

Marylander Plant Trees Home:

Recommended tree list for Marylanders Plant Trees:

The Herald-Mail Articles