If I ever have questions about ornamental plant selection, I’m not afraid to ask others for their opinions.
I’m a vegetable kind of guy, and the edibles tend to be in my horticultural wheelhouse. Don’t get me wrong, over the past 10 years, I have re-educated myself on local plants – native and non-native – so I can hold my own when someone asks my opinion on plant selection. But there are others out there who very well may know more than all of us, and they’re my go-to experts.
The challenge is that if you ask them a question, such as “What are your favorite shade trees?,” you need to know that there may be lengthy emails or text messages describing their love for certain trees. And that’s what happens when you ask local experts Ron Stoner, Jeff Wagner and Lisa Bourey their opinions. It’s like asking local music aficionado Chris Aaland of KSUT “What is your favorite band?” or David Woodruff of El Moro “What is your favorite drink?” You run the risk of changing your plans for the rest of the day.
So I will break the question “What is your favorite tree?” into two columns. This week will describe some of our favorite large shade trees, while next month’s column will go into some of the smaller, or ornamental, shade trees.
It’s important to fully understand the mature size of the tree. Know that even though you like the fall color of a Green Mountain sugar maple (a great tree), its mature size of 50 feet may overwhelm your (and your neighbors’) small urban lot. And know that our local nurseries have other choices – choices that fit your landscape, your likes and your conditions.
For larger shade trees, for larger spaces, here are some good options:
Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa): You have to be patient with this tree. But as Jeff says, “Everyone should plant at least one oak in their lifetime that they are sure will be strong and healthy for their great grandchildren.” Bur oak is that tree. At 50 feet tall and at least that or more in spread, it has a massive trunk that can support heavy horizontal limbs with deep, corky bark. Thornless honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis): Bear with me on this one. I know that it can be messy and that the leaves are a pain in the you know what to rake up in the fall. But the small leaflets have a fine texture that creates a unique shady space to lie under – a shade that tends to move like no other tree. Plus, it’s super durable and can be drought tolerant. Silver maple (Acer saccharinum): Drive up and down East Third Avenue in the fall and you can see why everyone loves this tree. It may have a bad reputation as having a weak limb structure, but it has stood the test of time (100 years) here in Durango.Accolade elm (Ulmus ‘Morton’): The pluses for this elm are that it’s resistant to Dutch-elm and Japanese beetles. It has a classic, vase-shade canopy, dark green glossy foliage and should never be compared with the weedy Siberian elm that is overpopulating the county. American yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea): A new one to me, so I will take the experts word. Smaller than the other trees on this list (mature height of 30 to 40 feet), the yellowwood is a prolific flowerer in June, with white, pea-like flowers held in long clusters. Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at email@example.com or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter