Fall and winter are the ideal time to plant new trees and shrubs. Local garden centers and hardware stores have plenty in stock and some are even on sale.
Fruit trees have the romantic aura of picking your own apples, peaches and cherries, which, in reality, is quite nice. They require a spraying schedule, pruning, fruit thinning, a deer fence and water during droughts.
Homeowners can be disappointed by the reality of a garden-center recommended tree. The garden center staff tells you either how the tree performed in someone else’s growing conditions or what the grower said about the plant. Neither of these is necessarily a prediction of how the tree will grow in your soil.
Pine trees and their relatives can succeed in our area. They take a beating during ice storms and tend to hold snow after the surrounding trees have bounced back. Austrian pines and other non- native varieties will live beautiful, albeit short, lives in our summer heat.
Two trouble-free, native, shrubby trees to consider are Witch Hazel and Paw Paw.
Witch Hazel or Hamamelis vernalis and Hamamelis Virginia are hardy from zone 4 to 8.
Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma native, Vernalis or Vernal witch hazel can grow in part shade. Its fragrant, yellow and red-orange flowers are just what we need in February.
Common witch Hazel or Hamamelis virginiana is an Illinois and Arkansas native that grows 10-feet tall with late fall fragrant, yellow flowers. The witch hazel we use on our skin for rashes is distilled from the roots and bark of young stems.
Virginiana will form colonies in the understory of trees. The leaves turn a brilliant yellow in autumn, the leaves fall, and then the flowers appear.
After its discovery in Virginia in the 1700s, Hamamelis virginiana was immediately taken to the gardens of England where its winter flowers earned it the nickname Epiphany Tree. (Epiphany is the Christmas season in the church year.)
Witch Hazels can be allowed to grow as shrubs or be pruned to a single trunk to grow as trees.
The seeds that form after the flowers fall ripen the next summer. When the pods open, the seeds are ejected with a pop, leading the tree to gain another nickname, the Snapping Hazelnut.
Both are available from Pine Ridge Nursery in Arkansas (www.pineridgegardens.com and 479.293.4359) for under $20 each.
Pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) grow to 10-feet tall in part-shade. They are valued for their edible fruit and fall color, as well as their appeal for wildlife gardeners. Zebra Striped Swallowtail butterflies raise their caterpillars on the leaves.
You need two varieties to grow fruit. Detailed growing information can be found at www.pawpaw.kysu.edu.
Raintree Nursery (www.raintreenursery.com) has several recommended varieties to ship now, including: NC-1, Sunflower, Taytwo, and Mitchell.
Neal Peterson (www.petersonpawpaws.com) developed new varieties including Shenandoah and Susquehanna. Blossom Nursery in Eureka Springs AR (www.blossomnursery.com) sells seeds and trees.
Kentucky Division of Forestry sells bundles of Pawpaw seedlings (800.866.0876 and www.forestry.ky.gov/seedling) $24 per bundle of ten. Order now for Feb 2010 delivery.
Other recommended varieties include: Overleese, Mary (Foos) Johnson, Jack’s Jumbo, Sweet Alice and Convis.
To plant trees identify the location of underground utility wires (call OKIE 1-800-522-6543). Look up to see if a 20-foot tree will become a problem for utility lines.
Dig a hole 18-inches wider than the diameter of the root ball and no deeper than the root ball.
Place the tree in the hole so the lowest branch points southwest. Straighten and backfill with soil. Build a watering moat around the outside of the planting hole. Fill the hole with water, using a slow flow. Fill the moat with 3 inches of mulch.