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Goodbye Tree, Hello Tree

Trees provide so much to so many and in so many different ways. Primarily I work in the city, where trees are a luxury commodity due to limited space. We plant them because they look good and they improve the value of our home and property. Secondly, but no less important, they cool our homes and return oxygen to the air.

The fall 2008 wind storms and the ice storm in late January 2009 proved to be devastating to many trees throughout Kentucky. Mature trees or newly planted trees, it didn’t seem to matter; the damage was everywhere.

So it seems appropriate to start out this fall with the intention to plant more trees. As homeowners and as gardeners, we plant trees not just for our own enjoyment, but also for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations.

As the large maple in our front yard was being cut down following the ice storm, I was sad yet filled with wonder. Who planted that tree so many years ago? Removing it was a difficult decision but the right thing to do because of the extensive damage and the hazard it could have created.

We planted a new tree right away, and we planted it as much for our neighbors and for all who walk by as we did for ourselves. Now as it grows and I care for it, I wonder about the family who will live here and enjoy this tree in 50 years when I am gone.

Planting a tree is indeed a powerful gift. Do you have a spot where you have been wanting to plant a tree? The main advantage of fall planting is cooler night temperatures, reducing water usage and in turn the time spent watering. Expanded roots develop as the root system continues to grow into early winter even after all the leaves have fallen, which means a stronger tree as spring rolls around.

To decide what tree to plant, first use a comprehensive tree book for research and then seek the advice of your local tree experts, who will guide you in the right direction. Some trees are easy to find and commonly available, while others are more unique and take a little more work to locate.

Five unique tree choices
Here is a selection of trees that are unique and will reward you with not only beauty but also ensure diversity for the future.

Carpinus caroliniana, American hornbeam, is a beautiful small but wide-spreading shade tree growing about 30 to 40 feet tall. It has excellent yellow fall color with occasionally reddish color. It is known to tolerate dry sites and will perform well in sun as well as shade.

Asimina triloba, pawpaw, grows 20 to 30 feet tall with large oblong leaves that cast fabulous cool shade. It has interesting and subtle burgundy to purplish flowers and good yellow to yellowish green fall color, making it a very fun native tree.

Parrotia persica, Persian parrotia, growing 20 to 40 feet tall and many times equally wide as tall, is grown mainly for the amazingly beautiful sculpted foliage and stunning fall color. Older bark becomes slightly exfoliating and resembles the combination of bark from a crape myrtle and a lacebark pine.

Zelkova serrata, Japanese zelkova, is more of an upright tree that can grow 50 to 80 feet tall with beautifully grassy green leaves in summer and yellowish brown fall color. This is an all-around tough tree, noted for being very resistant to drought and wind.

Ostrya virginiana, American hophornbeam (or ironwood), is a beautiful medium-size tree growing 20 to 40 feet tall. It has a very interesting fruit that resembles a hop and is quite showy. It is very difficult to tell the European hornbeam and the American hornbeam apart. They are very similar and are elegant yet simple trees for the garden.

Consider planting a tree this fall, plant it for yourself, for future generations, and for the world.

Ask the Gardener
by Angie McManus

There is an animal or pest that’s cutting my plants and bulbs from under the ground. Can you tell me what it might be and what I can use to get rid of them?

It sounds like you might be dealing with voles, not to be confused with moles, which feed on insects and earthworms. There are a couple different kinds of voles, but the pine vole is usually the culprit of underground damage. Of course, I cannot say for sure but from what you have described these small mammals are a possibility, especially if you are pulling up plants and the roots have been eaten or if the bark has actual teeth marks. These critters are only 4-5 inches long at maturity but can do some serious damage to plant material. They usually live in loose soil as this makes it easier for them to dig their tunnels. These tunnels can be a foot deep and contain many adult and young voles. These rodents do not venture very far, so it would be feasible to trap them depending on the space you are dealing with. Identifying the culprit is the first step in solving the problem. The New Hampshire Extension Service has a publication available to home gardeners on voles; you can download a PDF file online at and type in the search box “Pesky Winter Critters.”

Have a gardening question?
Go to, click on Home & Garden, then “Ask The Gardener” link to ask a question.

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