The Q&A Archives: Tree selection

Question: Looking for a shade tree that can be put into parking lot landscape islands for a car dealership in Smithtown, New York. Islands are about 35 feet long and 6 to 10 feet wide (islands are tapered to fit parking layout within site).
Tree characteristics perfered:
- within zone 5, 6, or 7 (site on Long Island, New York)
- single stem
- branches 7 feet min. cleareance above ground
- not too large
- some fall color
- minimal shallow root system
- not messey
I will appreciate any suggestions/advise that you may have.
Nick Mattessich

Answer: Based on your description it is a bit difficult to make specific suggestions. You might be able to use something like a hornbeam (20 to 30 feet) or Japanese tree lilac (15 to 25 feet) or one of the many ornamental disease resistant crab apples, but these might not be large enough to shade much of an area. The thornless honeylocust might be a good choice for providing light shade and small leaves that require no raking, but it grows quite large (to between 40 and 70 feet.) You could also consider the ornamental pears however they tend to be brittle and break apart in ice/snow. To some extent your choice depends on how much wind hits the area - especially in winter -- and what the soil conditions are. I would suggest you work with your local county extension and your local professionally trained nursery staff to analyze the growing conditions and determine what has the best chance of growing well and staying healthy in the islands. They may have some totally different suggestions based on the growing conditions and a more detailed understanding of your design goals. Good luck with your project!

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