Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tips for Buying a Tree

Advice about how to choose a tree


Buying a tree at discount storesIt's that time of the year again when trees are available at grocery stores and discount centers. There's nothing wrong with buying one of these trees, but choose carefully.

Have in mind what kind of tree you want. You don't want to plant a problem. Think about the water and soil needs of the tree, its susceptibility to weather damage and disease, and its wildlife value, as well as its mature size and its branching and rooting patterns.

Be ready to get your tree as soon as the store receives its tree shipment. Typically, trees at a store will not receive as good of ongoing care as a nursery or garden center tree will have. By buying the tree soon after it arrives, you can spare it some stress. You'll also have a better selection to choose from.

Be sure that the branch tips are still green and alive, not dry and brittle. Check the rootball -- has the soil dried out and shrunk away from the sides of the pot? If so, the fine hairs of the roots are probably damaged.

Trees with leaf buds will probably withstand transplanting better than trees that have leafed out. Always avoid trees that have leafed out already if local trees are still in bud stage -- the foliage might suffer frost damage if you get a sudden cold spell!

Look for a stocky, strong tree that has a single, straight central trunk . Branches should be well-distributed around all sides of the trunk, not clumped to one side. The tree should have wide angles where the branches join the trunk. Avoid trees that have branches attached at 30° angles or less because these weak branch crotches may split in bad weather.

The roots should not be coming out the bottom of the pot. If they are, that's a pretty good sign that the roots don't have enough room and are probably growing in circles inside the pot

Finally, be ready to plant the tree the same day that you buy it -- and know how to plant it correctly.

As always, the Extension Service is a great source of information -- call them and ask for advice about any detail of buying and planting a tree! Your electric company and telephone company have guidelines about the location of tall trees, as well.

Missouri State University recently issued a press release with advice about buying trees. It is brief, but has some good suggestions.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Photos and text copyright © 2006-2010 by Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Do not republish without written permission. My e-mail address is gnetz51@gmail.com