If you’re thinking about adding a native tree or shrub to your yard this fall, take one all-important step before you even visit a nursery or touch a shovel:
Create a plan.
That’s the advice of two experts at Dawes Arboretum, which later this month will be the site of the Ohio Sustainable Landscapes Symposium. This year’s theme is “Getting to Know Your Native Trees From the Ground Up.”
“People will spend more time researching a vehicle that they’ll own for three to five years than a tree that they’ll have for 50 years,” Michael Ecker, director of horticulture at Dawes, said recently by phone.
“People may have a tree in mind, but it might not thrive in your environment,” said Shana Byrd, director of land conservation. “You may get a tree to survive, but it may not thrive.”
For starters, they urge that you consider a tree’s mature size before buying.
“There’s a big difference between shading your patio and shading your house,” Ecker said.
He added, however, that “all the books and literature will tell you that ‘This tree grows to 100 feet tall’ — but that’s in perfect conditions.”
In a typical yard with soil compacted from construction, a tree probably will not reach its full height.
Along with size, other factors to research include soil chemistry; the amount of sun that your site receives; and issues such as property lines, utility lines and rights of way.
When it does come time to plant, Ecker offers another crucial tip.
“When I see something fail in a landscape, it’s almost always too deeply planted,” he said.
“Most of our landscapes are like swamps.”
Because of soil compaction during construction, many yards suffer from poor drainage — so the ground stays waterlogged after rain, causing problems for tree roots.
As a result, “Most of the plants that do well in swamps do well in our landscapes,” he said.
While certain nonnative plants…