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Don’t Plant Problems

Many fast growing trees have short lives

You won’t need to replace slow-growing trees like willow oak.

Contractors are notorious for planting what horticulturists call trash trees and shrubs around new housing developments. The plants they select are fast-growing, cheap and can be guaranteed to live for at least one year after they have been planted.
    The trees most commonly used are silver maple, weeping willow, mimosa, Lombardy poplar and white willow. They grow fast, provide quick shade and make the house more appealing at the time of purchase.
    The most common shrubs are arborvitae, privet and forsythia.
    Many first-time homeowners, with little to no knowledge of trees and shrubs, are unaware of the problems they’ll be facing within 10 to 15 years. Most of these tree species, except for silver maple, have a lifespan of only 10 to 15 years. If they were planted in poor, heavily compacted soil, they may not last longer than three to five years.
    Recently a resident of Deale was given my name by a Bay Weekly reader as a source in determining what was causing the trees on their property to die one after another. The cause of death was quickly diagnosed. White willows planted at construction were reaching the end of their lifespan. Also on the property, a large silver maple was dropping dead branches on the roof.
    These fast-growing trees are extremely susceptible to cankers that attack the trunks. Once the cankers become established in the wood of the tree, there is no treatment.
    Silver maples grow fast, but they will outlive the other species mentioned. However, as they age, the wood becomes brittle. The problem is further complicated by the fact that they tend to develop narrow crotches. Narrow crotches are weak and split even when the trees are relatively young.
    The best solution to fast-growing tree problems is to remove and replace them with slower growing trees with wide crotches such as willow oaks, red oaks, red maples, linden and many more. When properly planted in well prepared soil, these trees will generate three to four feet of growth or more each year and last longer than your mortgage or those of future owners.

Red Alert for Birch Trees
    Our long stretches of days with temperatures above 90 degrees usually coincide with orange and red air pollution alerts. If you have a clump of Heritage yellow birch in your landscape, you’ll likely see a significant drop of yellow leaves on the ground. Only the older leaves and not the younger leaves near the ends of the branches are falling. The leaf drop does not mean that the trees will die. They will survive but will not grow as vigorous next year because of the early leaf loss this year. If the drought continues, irrigate your birch trees well each week until late September.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.