Friday, December 2, 2011

Plan and Plant

Winterberry holly bent badly in the October snow storm. It recovered.
 What to do in the yard and garden in December? While we might putter around with the compost pile, rake up the last leaves or finish clean up from that October snow storm, the list of possible gardening tasks is pretty short. Now is a great time to begin planning for next year’s spring planting…..especially tree and shrub planting.

Japanese Zelkova after the storm... beyond repair
  Many of us have been forced to think about tree replacement as a result of the late October Snow storm. Six to eight inches of snow applied to trees full of leaves was devastating. On the other hand…the weaklings were weeded out!

Southeastern Pennsylvania certainly could use more trees. In fact, research done in 2002 showed an alarming loss of tree cover in the metro Philly area. In response, Tree Vitalize was born. This private/public partnership has the goal of establishing one million new trees. Quoting from the Tree Vitalize website... “An additional goal is to train 10,000 volunteers in basic tree biology and tree care to assist their communities in establishing and maintaining new plantings. Ultimately, the goal of TreeVitalize is to establish strong urban forestry partnerships in all 14 Pennsylvania metropolitan areas and to build local capacity for sustaining the urban forest resource.” If I am reading the website correctly 296,952 trees have been planted so far. It is a wonderful program. Check it out at . The volunteer portion of the program is called Tree Tenders and training is ongoing in many communities. See this for details.

Tree Vitalize and Tree Tenders are great programs for communities that want to establish trees. They are not designed to assist private property owners.

Bucks County Master Gardeners plant bare-root Tree Vitalize trees
 Penn State Master Gardeners have planted about 75 Tree Vitalize trees at Neshaminy Manor Center, home of the Penn State Extension office. We’re calling our planting The Almshouse Arboretum and it consists of Tree Vitalize trees, some existing trees, as well as specimens we have added on our own. Most of the trees are labeled so you can do a self-guided tour. Or, contact us to have a Master Gardner give you or your group a personalized tour.

OK. Back to your yard….Maybe you have other reasons to plant trees and shrubs. Still trying to sell that house? Realtors will tell you that well landscape properties have exceptional value. Whatever your motivation, tree planting is a good idea. So where to start….

Penn State has lots of help. Trees for Pennsylvania Landscapes and Shrubs for Pennsylvania Landscapes are two excellent references. They describe great plants and categorize them by size and other characteristics such as flowering habit, fall foliage, etc.
Now is a great time to consider where to locate new landscape plants. Your local garden center/nursery usually has a landscape designer on staff to talk this through with you. Check out the Penn State publication Landscaping Home Grounds for some basic principles of landscape design and you’ll be a step ahead when you begin this conversation.

Finally…the actual planting. You can let the professionals do this or tackle it yourself. Planting and After Care of Community Trees will give you good guidance. Or, for a great, short video on the tree planting process, just watch the video produced by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Berks County at this site.
Alright, you’ve got all winter to read, study, talk and plan for tree and shrub planting this spring. Unique, beautiful, long-lived, wildlife-supporting plants are ready and waiting for new homes. It’s up to you to do your part.