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Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005 03:00 pm

Trees for the landscape

Here are some recommendations to add beauty and character

Two things will determine your happiness with a tree selection: matching the tree to your site conditions and picking a tree with characteristics that you like. Remember: Right tree, right place. Here’s a short list of trees that are sure to add beauty and character to your landscape. These selections, which may all be successfully grown in central Illinois, are available at local garden centers and nurseries. Heights and widths are approximate. The Kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa, is a small tree with year-round seasonal interest. Vase-shaped when young, this dogwood takes on a horizontal habit at maturity. Creamy-white 1- to 2-inch flowers appear in mid-June. Birds love the pinkish-red to red fruits, which ripen in late summer and persist through October. The dark-green summer foliage turns reddish purple to scarlet in the fall. Kousa dogwood prefers well-drained soil and reaches 25 feet at maturity, with a similar spread.
The serviceberry, Amelanchier, is another four-seasons-of-interest genus. Serviceberries have small white flowers that cover the plant in early spring. The edible purplish-black berries, which ripen in the summer, are quickly consumed by birds. The glossy green leaves turn a brilliant yellow, orange, or red in the fall. These multistemmed specimens, which take the form of large shrubs or small trees, look great en masse or as a specimen plant. At maturity, serviceberries range in height from 10 to 25 feet tall.
The black gum, Nyssa sylvatica, is an underplanted species with some outstanding characteristics. Its leaves, a glossy green in summer, turn yellow, orange, red, and purple in the fall. Birds and squirrels enjoy the bluish-black fruit. Also known as black tupelo or sour gum, the black gum prefers moist, well-drained soil and does not tolerate standing water. It does well as a street tree and is subject to few insect or disease problems. A pyramidal tree, the black gum reaches 50 feet at maturity.
The white fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus, bears fragrant, showy white flowers in late May that cover the plant just as the leaves are appearing. In September, female trees bear navy-blue fruits that draw birds. The white fringe tree has a moderate growth rate; at maturity it reaches 15 feet, with a similar spread. It’s a good selection for the urban landscape.
The American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana, also known as musclewood or ironwood, has muscular-looking blue-gray branches. The textured dark-green to bluish-green foliage turns yellow, orange, or scarlet in the fall. The American hornbeam does well in moist soil and grows about 40 feet tall, with a similar spread.
The paperbark maple, Acer griseum, has a rich reddish-brown bark that exfoliates to expose a cinnamon-bronze to reddish-brown color, an outstanding winter feature. This maple prefers a full-sun location with moist, well-drained soil. The paperbark maple has a slow to medium rate of growth and at maturity reaches 20 feet, with a spread equal to its height. The leaves turn bright red, bronze, or orange late in the fall. Some leaves persist into the winter.
The American yellowwood, Cladrastis kentukea (lutea), is named for the color of its heartwood. Fragrant white pendulous clusters of flowers adorn this tree in early May. The flowers are more abundant in alternate years. Yellowwood, which has a graceful spreading crown, is a native medium-size tree, growing 40 feet tall, with a similar spread. The leaves turn yellow in the fall. The yellowwood prefers a full-sun location with moist, rich, well-drained soil. It withstands city conditions and does well in alkaline soils. For more information, visit the Chicago Botanical Gardens’ “Illinois’ Best Plants” Web page, bestplants.chicago-botanic.org/. Tree-planting demonstration
When people wonder why their trees are dying, they typically expect the blame to fall on an insect or disease problem. Yet poor planting technique — planting a tree too deeply or providing poor care afterward — is usually the cause.
Learn how to avoid these mistakes at a free demonstration, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, in front of the University of Illinois Extension Building, on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. For more information, call 217-782-4617.  

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