By Pete Amyoony

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now! I have always liked that old saying that I have seen in so many gardening books. I really think that planting a tree or shrub is an expression of our faith in the future.

So many gardeners tend to think of spring as the only time of year to plant. Some are so specific that they claim the May 24th weekend is “planting time”! For those of us who tend to bite off more garden than we can chew, planting goes on all year.

If you can find potted trees, shrubs, perennials, etc at your favourite nursery, from now until mid September is a great time to plant. Beautiful, healthy potted perennials are available at local markets and from local growers.

At this time of year, there seems to be a little more time for planning where to place trees and shrubs and to dig out the sod to prepare a perennial bed. The main thing to remember is to have a good supply of water as the new trees shrubs and perennials will need regular twice weekly deep watering until late fall when the ground freezes.
When planning for trees around the property, using conifers such as fir, spruce or pine, on the North side of the house or as a windbreak against winter winds makes the most sense. Because our days are so short in the winter months and most of us like to have as much of the winter sun as possible, it is better to plant deciduous trees that shed their leaves in the winter on the South side of the house. They will let the sun shine through in the winter months and give shade in the heat of summer when it is needed.
When planning for trees on your property, be sure to do your research first. You don’t want to plant a “cute little tree” next to the house and have it grow to 45feet(15m) in ten years and be a menace to your roof and fill your flowerbeds with acid needles. Always find out how tall the tree grows, how wide it spreads, does it sucker a lot, how hardy it is, does it produce fruit, does it drop its branches and needles a lot, does it need a lot of pruning, etc.

Don’t forget you can plant a tree or shrub to serve two purposes. It can give shade and fruit, or serves as a windbreak and shade, or give privacy and a beautiful view from your window. Before you choose a tree for a location, always see if you can make it serve two purposes.

It is always good to check out if a tree grows slowly of fast, and what the lifespan of the tree is. I have some hybrid poplar on my property that will grow 4-6 feet (2m) a year. If a tree lives less than 50 years it is said to have a “short” lifespan. The 4,700 year-old bristlecone pine in California could be said to have a “long” lifespan, as it is know as the world’s oldest living tree.

One of the former owners of my property planted a row of evergreens – fir, spruce and balsam- along the property line in the 1970’s. These beautiful, stately trees are now taller than hydro poles and give a windbreak, privacy from the road and great habitat for the birds and other critters. I am forever thankful for his foresight and hope that someday, others will enjoy the orchard, rose bushes and other shrubs that I have added to this little piece of heaven. If each of us plants and cares for a few trees, shrubs or perennials, just imagine what a wonderful world we can leave for future generations!