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These four special trees will enhance your landscape

One of the toughest questions to answer is one I get asked quite frequently: “What is your favorite tree?”

Whew! That’s like asking Grandma to pick her favorite grandchild! Everyday, as I walk around the Nursery, I see so many different trees and each one fascinates me in its own way. So, depending on when you ask me, I’m likely to describe enthusiastically my current favorite!

Yes, favorites are hard to define, whether we’re talking about trees or grandkids. But it might be easier to answer the question if we break out the answer into four categories: evergreen, deciduous, flowering and fruiting.

Evergreen Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) The Douglas Fir is one of the fastest-growing of the evergreen forest trees, even faster than the Frazier. If you’re thinking of lining a long driveway, planting a row of Douglas Firs on either side will quickly add a stately ambience, and because of the fast growth, they give the appearance of having been there for years. A Douglas Fir also makes a nice stand-alone specimen with its characteristic soft, blue/green needles. Even at the height of summer, a Douglas Fir reminds me of Christmas (my favorite Holiday) so you can see why it figures high on my list of favored trees.

Other favorite evergreens: Eastern White Pine, Norway Spruce.

Deciduous Trees Dawn Redwood Gold Rush. I’ll admit I’m prejudiced towards this one because it was developed by a good friend of mine, Don Shadow, who is one of the most remarkable horticulturists I’ve ever known. The Gold Rush is aptly named: in the spring the foliage emerges as a deep golden color and stays that way well into the summer. The foliage turns green for a while then changes again to a burnished orange-brown in the fall. It seems to be fairly easy to grow and is resistant to most pests and diseases, reaching a height of about 50 feet after 20 years and topping out between 75 and 100 feet.

Other favorite deciduous trees: Black Walnut, Cherrybark Oak, Chinese Chestnut

Flowering Trees Red Bud Appalachian Red (Cercis Canadensis) Another spectacular plant brought to my attention by Don Shadow who tells me that this variety was found by Dr. Max Byrkit. The Appalachian Red blooms later than most similar cultivars. I like that because, for me, it prolongs the fresh beauty of spring quite late into the season. When it blooms, the branches are covered with a wonderful display of bright, neon-red flowers before the glossy, heart-shaped leaves appear. An unusual tree but well worth searching for!

Other favorite flowering trees: Pagoda Dogwood, Crape Myrtle “Arapaho”

Fruit trees Moonglow Pear. If you like Bartlett pears as much as we do, you’ll love Moonglow. Cheryl and I like it because it is soft and juicy without being mushy. Moonglow has a unique creamy glow to its skin and nice musky fragrance when you bite into it. Of course, it is also an attractive tree that can add a special something to your landscape.

Other favorite fruit trees: Pineapple Pear, Elberta Peach, Fuji Apple

Yes, I know: ask me again in a few months or maybe next spring and I’ll probably have some new favorites that are sparking my enthusiasm. That’s what makes life such an adventure for landscapers and gardeners: there’s always something new (or at least, newly discovered) to get us excited!

The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org