Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern Coasts
February, 2004
Regional Report

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Resurrection fern adorns old oak limbs in rainy weather.

Insuring Your Legacy

Many who own new homes or add on to vintage ones bemoan the loss of trees in the wake of construction. Plant new ones now, as Arbor Day is celebrated in the South in February. While you're at it, consider at least one tree that will live into the next century.

Trees for 100+ Years
Ginkgo, cypress, and several oaks are the ancients for our region. Ginkgo biloba, the duckfoot tree, is named for the shape of its leaves. Those characteristic patterns were found in the fossil record before any live specimens were located in the twentieth century. Thought extinct, the ginkgo has not only survived but has thrived in cultivation. Select male ginkgos only, please. Female ginkgos don't pass the garden test; their flowers smell awful and create a huge mess.

Bigger is Better
Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and pond cypress (T. ascendens) grow anywhere except in very alkaline soils, which makes them ideal, tall, canopy trees to accompany azaleas, hollies, camellias, gardenias, and other acid-soil plants. Both have oddly sweet-smelling cones after the flowers and will grow on wet or dry sites. Pond cypress is slightly more upright and less cone-shaped than bald. Both are huge and native to the southeastern United States.

Our region is known for its live oak trees (Quercus virginiana), but other species deserve consideration for their gigantic, eventual size and distinctive leaves and acorns. Some majestic choices include post oak (Q. stellata), white oak (Q. alba), and overcup oak (Q. lyrata).

Nurturing for Life
Like the tortoise and the hare, trees may start at the same point, but those that go slow and steady finish stronger and longer. These trees do not grow fast, so plant them in a grove with others that do, if fast shade is your goal. River birch, Drake elm, and tulip poplar will reach maturity much faster, but by the time the "turtle" tree hits its stride (in twenty years or so), the "hares" may be ready for the woodpile.

Dig a hole deeper and wider than the size of the rootball you will plant. Amend the soil as needed to insure proper drainage before planting, and do not stake or tie the tree to a support unless absolutely necessary. Mulch a circle around each new tree to keep mowers and trimmers away, don't let the site dry out, and fertilize once a year for the life of the tree.

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