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Planting with a Purpose

September is a great time to enhance your home with landscaping. High temperatures are mostly behind us and winter is still three months away. Why not get to work this Labor Day?!

If fall planting is in your near future, you may need to refresh what you’ve heard or learned about landscaping. There’s a little more to purchasing a quality tree than selecting something that simply looks good to the eye. Trees and shrubs are the backbone of landscaping, and careful consideration should be given to selecting both.

A common question asked by homeowners is, “What tree should I plant?” There are thousands of options, which leads a buyer to first reflect on what he or she wants from a tree. What is the tree’s purpose - Is it to soften the corner of a house, to provide shade or privacy, or to add interest or curb appeal?

Once purpose is determined, go a little deeper with reflection. Which tree option is most suitable for the available space? What is the tree’s mature size? Will its roots compete with the lawn? Does the tree have any interesting or appealing features? By answering these guiding questions, your selection should be somewhat narrowed. The answer to these questions can come from a google search or a Q&A session with a local nursery employee.

Before heading to a garden center or nursery, keep in mind the following tips from GlenRoss’ resident horticulturalist, Ray Ogle:

1) Avoid the “latest and greatest” cultivars. New hybrids are often quick to market and not tested long enough in the Midwest. They may look great the first five years and then fall to some disease, insect or other cultural challenge like sun scald.

2) Be careful picking a tree already heavily planted in your neighborhood. Diversity is your friend. Consider the white pine craze of 30 years ago. Most of those did not survive. If diversity would have been practiced, disease would not have been so easily spread.

3) Fast growing trees are typically brittle trees. If you are impatient, like I am, look for the happy medium between fast growing and durable.

There are many fabulous trees to pick from. Ultimately it comes down to preference. Is the vibrant fall beauty of the sweet gum tree worth the hassle of dealing with the medieval spike balls? For me that’s an easy “yes”, for others it’s a hard no.

Midwest Living recommends twenty tough trees for Midwest lawns at the following link:

Need an in-depth planting how-to? This Miracle Grow website breaks it down.

Looking to identify your plant hardiness zone? The USDA has a zip code found here:

Kansas City has some fantastic nurseries to assist in selecting varieties to fit your house and personality. Happy planting!

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