My house came with one tree planted in the tiny strip of land between the sidewalk and the street—the house sits on an irregular lot where the front measures a little over 50 feet wide and the parallel property line in the back measures over 200 feet wide. In the early spring storms the lone tree—an autumn blaze maple—ended up floating out of its hole because the root ball was slightly small relative to the tree’s crown and the ground around the hole was hard packed clay.
It is a good tree, but it is ill suited to the site and every other tree on the street is an autumn blaze maple. Ash trees, which used to be the dominant street tree following the decline of elms due to Dutch elm disease, are no longer a viable option in Iowa because of the emerald ash borer, but people need to think beyond this one species of tree. The variety is overplanted right now and its wood strength, owing to being a cross between a red and silver maple, is lacking.
With a bare backyard:
I had some work to do. The former street tree was moved to the backyard in a location that was more suitable. Unlike my front yard, the backyard has sandy soil that drains very well. Since late May, the autumn blaze maple has been replanted and thriving in its new location. What to do with the rest of the yard?
One trip to my local nursery later and I was waiting for delivery of six trees to begin filling out my yard. On the way home from the nursery I chanced upon some Norway spruces at a grocery store garden center that were 30% off. I prefer the Norway spruce to the more commonly planted Colorado blue or Black Hills because it thrives in the Iowa climate whereas the other two have problems with both the seasonal heat and humidity. The Norway spruce is also the fastest growing member of the spruce family. So now I was looking at planting nine trees.
Up front, the replacement tree is a New Horizon elm (Ulmus “New Horizon” ). I chose an elm because it is a rapid grower and the species is generally underplanted. Most people are not cognizant of the new cultivars that are resistant to Dutch elm disease. It is looking good:
A companion tree for the front is a Royal Raindrops flowering crabapple . The tree gets magenta pink blooms in the spring, has violet foliage, and good fall color.
The backyard was where the real work began. The rear property line was going to be dominated by a row of alternating red oaks (Quercus rubra ) and Norway spruces (Picea abies ). The oaks and spruces should thrive in the eastern Iowa climate. A total of seven trees took me two days to plant. The results, however, speak for themselves:
For the year I have planted nine trees, replanted one tree, planted seven blueberry bushes, and completely filled in two beds on the south face of the house with perennials. It might be time to take a break from planting for the season and leave some work for next year.