Trees Are a Serious Subject
There is a mountain of information available on the Internet about trees. The vast majority of this information is very high level—meaning that if you’re a serious horticulturalist you can probably get whatever information you need. And fairly quickly.
According to a December 10, 2007 press release posted on the website of the Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BCGI), the world total inventory of unique tree species is high. “It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 species of trees.” The estimate is offered as part of an announcement that the New York Botanical Garden has received funding to manage a project aimed at collecting the DNA of each tree species for a kind of biological bar code catalog.
It’s a fascinating idea (read the whole press release by clicking on the abbreviated underlined blue title right here Tree-BOL.) But this information has yet to be collected. And even if it was available it would be slightly overwhelming.
For the Serious Gardener
All of this is to say, if you just happen to be a serious gardener who wants to be growing trees, it’s not so easy to get authoritative, plainly written information about trees such as types of evergreen trees without a struggle (for free anyway.)
But there is some OK stuff around.
And if you are thinking of adding apple trees to your garden, or any tree to your property, an example of a good resource is North Carolina State University’s reference of 393 different trees. (Here’s the website: Trees. When the page comes up click on the tree name to get the fact sheet.)
Basically this is a tree encyclopedia of which there are many available in varying degrees of completeness and appropriateness to your area. (Did you know that the famous Los Angeles palm trees are not native to the area?)Mostly books for pay. The format is similar across the spotty Internet offerings. To get free local information, we had some success with entering a state name in the Extension Service search engine followed by the search term ‘Trees.’ Not every state produced results.
In the North Carolina State University database each tree is described briefly on a single page. Each tree’s rundown includes specifics such as height and width; how fast the tree grows; what the leaves are like; growing conditions (important if you want a palm tree in your backyard;) evergreen or deciduous; things to look out for, and so forth.
Color photos are part of every rundown, most times more than one.
The tree rundown also includes information about in what region of the country the tree grows best. The focus, of course, is mostly North Carolina. But trees from other regions of the country are represented as well, for example Sequoias, which mostly grow in the West but could potentially grow in North Carolina, as do other evergreen trees.
The most widely growing tree in the United States, the Aspen for example, is not on the North Carolina list because the Aspen tree likes the cool climates of the mountainous West.
The North Carolina list provides an indicator of the suitability of individual trees to various regions of the country. Suitability is determined by the average temperature a tree will tolerate to survive and grow. And the indicator provided, unfortunately, is to “Hardiness Zones” as defined by a map developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA.) The North Carolina map provided on the University’s website is not very useful since it is in black and white, while the original is color coded. Even the original color map doesn’t help much. (Find the map by clicking on the following USDA Hardiness Zones.)
You can zoom in onto your own region, but then you have to match the color codes. Mortals do it. But not easily.
The map, by the way, is posted on the website of the United States National Arboretum (USNA), essentially the national museum of trees, exactly like a botanical garden except for trees. (An arboretum specializing in pine trees is called a 'pinetum.') (Just thought we'd throw that in to impress you.) Lots of good information here for the curious, but not necessarily the practical. If you want to explore, here’s the USNA home page.
The National Gardening Association helps out a little by offering the USDA hardiness map keyed to Zip Codes. Not a bad idea. It’s easy to get the hardiness zone number for your zip code and then match the zone number with the North Carolina State University’s tree fact sheet. Find the National Gardening Association map here: Zip Code Hardiness Zone.
The Actual Planting
Once you’ve decided on which trees you want to plant, and good luck to you on that one, here’s a good, practical guide to the whole planting operation. It’s also from the North Caroline State University Cooperative Extension Service. Click “Planting Techniques for Trees and Shrubs” and the leaflet (no pun intended) will come right up.
Here’s another tree planting guide. This one has a little more detail, and it’s a PDF in case you want to print it out. This publication is from the Iowa Sate University Extension, and if you click on Tree Planting, you’ll go right to it.And that’s pretty much our contribution to the practical aspects of planting trees.