Five tips on choosing the right tree for your Buffalo-area yard

Birch tree in Buffalo NY area
Birch. Photo by Russell’s.

You need to do a little planning when choosing a tree for your garden or yard. Unlike a smaller plant, you can’t move a tree each year trying to find the perfect location.

You need to pick the right tree for your yard, and the right spot for your tree.

We talked to Curt Leising, plant technician at Russell’s Tree and Shrub Farm, 9800 Transit Rd., East Amherst. While there are many factors to take into consideration when choosing a tree, he offers five tips to help you avoid making the most common mistakes.

Tree buying tip #1: Make sure you have enough room for the tree when it is fully grown.

A spruce might have a diameter or spread of 40 feet. My yard is 35 feet wide, so a spruce would spread across the entire yard and keep on going.

Norway Spruce
Norway Spruce. Photo by Russell’s.

“Yet people will plant a spruce eight or ten feet off the corner of their house,” Leising noted.

Don’t be fooled by the size of the tree you’re buying. Make sure you have enough room for the tree when it is fully mature.

Tree buying tip #2: Protect evergreens from wind burn.

As the wind passes over an evergreen’s needles, it draws moisture from the needles and the needles turn brown. This is wind burn.

“The trees are okay once they’re established,” Leising said, “but the problem is getting them established.”

Norway spruce, Canadian hemlock and concolor firs are especially susceptible to wind burn, he said. Select a spot where they can handle the exposure, especially the wind.

Tree buying tip #3: Choose carefully if you have wet or dry areas.

'Crimson King' Maple
‘Crimson King’ Maple. Photo by Russell’s.

“Some trees have root systems that are more finicky regarding soil,” Leising said.

Some, like a river birch and service berry, like wetter soil, he said. These would be good choices for a low-lying area that holds a lot of water.

Others, like crimson king, like drier soil.

Tree buying tip #4: Consider bees and insects when choosing trees that will be near seating areas.

Magnolias and rose of Sharon are two beautiful flowering trees that you might be tempted to plant near a porch or patio where people can see them.

Keep in mind, though, that magnolias can attract an insect called magnolia scale, and the magnolia scale in turn attracts bees. The rose of Sharon attracts both bees and Japanese beetles.

Magnolia 'Ann' in Buffalo NY area
Magnolia ‘Ann’. Photo by Russell’s.

“Do you want those trees close to a deck where you have people sitting?” Leising asked.

Tree buying tip #5: One question you should always ask.

Leising said that before you make your final selection at the garden center,  you should always ask the staff person, “Are there any major problems with this tree when it comes to insects and fungus?”

For example, the dwarf Alberta spruce is prone to spider mites. This might be a deal breaker for you, or it might not matter to you.

“Ask for the pros and cons,” he said. If you don’t ask, the staff person may assume you already know.

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