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Colorado Livin' / Uncategorized

Top 5 Trees for natural A/C and…crime reduction?

My tree died this year – finally, fully and completely. It was an Aspen and it had been dwindling in health recently. Fewer and fewer leaves appeared each of the past 2 years and more and more branches died off.

The tree was about 20 years old, a suburban average, therefore it died a “natural” death. In the mountains, an Aspen can live a good 150 years but the urban/suburban lifestyle takes it toll on the tree and dwarfs its’ longevity.

Now I have a very large toothpick in my front yard and no shade on the front of my house, the western facing side, in the late afternoon. The hot, intense, desert-like sweltering heat from 3pm until sunset. The tree provided shade all the way up the to the second story.

According to the Xcel Energy website, “your first landscape priority should be shading the west walls and windows with deciduous (leaf-shedding) trees. One tree, shading the walls and roof during the afternoon, can reduce wall and roof temperatures by 20°F to 40°F.”

It’s time to do something about the toothpick in the yard. In March and April, no less than three times a week a tree company would knock on our door saying they would get rid of the tree quick and cheap.

I would ask the gentlemen if their company had insurance for the dangerous, chain-saw wielding task. Each man would abruptly break eye contact stating that yes, they in fact had insurance while simultaneously shaking their head from left to right. Confidence was not conveyed. Toothpick still stands.

Before I remove the toothpick a new tree must be determined. My daughter and I took a trip to Tagawa Gardens on Parker Road in Centennial. Tagawa is our favorite garden and gift center. Most Father’s Day gifts are purchased there, many birthday presents, all of our roses were purchased there.

Mike works in the tree and shrub section and was was more than happy to spend quite a bit of time with us on a hot Friday morning in July to talk about trees. Mike is an ISA Certified Arborist which means he has quite bit of education and lots of experience with trees in all shapes and sizes. He knows his stuff!

I told Mike about my tree needs: height and width needed, summer shade and winter warmth, interesting color, low maintenance. I asked for his top 5 recommendations of trees that would be drought and disease tolerant and would thrive in our lovely Colorado clay. Here are Mike’s recommendations:

1. HOT WINGS® Tatarian Maple – Acer tataricum ‘GarAnn’

Height 15”-18”, width 15”-18”. This maple has showy bright red samaras which are actually seed pods but look like flowers tucked among the green leaves. The samaoras – they feel like thin, textured paper – last all summer providing a dramatic pop of color. In the fall, the leaves turn orange and yellow. Hot Wings® is a 2011 Plant Select tree.

Plant Select is a partnership of Colorado State University and the Denver Botanic Gardens. The organization works with nursery professionals to identify plants, trees, shrubs that thrive in our unique Colorado climate.

2. Flamingo Boxelder Maple – Acer negundo ‘Flamingo’

Height 30”-35”, width 30”-35”. This very well may be the tree we plant in our front yard. It is a marvel of color throughout the year. Beginning in spring, the leaves are light pink then change over to a variegation of cream and green. In the fall the leaves turn yellow to orange. The stunning creamy, white leaves are a real eye-catcher and would stand out among all the evergreens and green-leafed trees of my neighborhood.

3. Canada Red Chokecherry – Prunus virginiana ‘Canada Red’

Multi-trunk height 25′, width 40′ wide (pictured here). Single-trunk height 25′, width 25′ (pictured above). This chokecherry is a dramatic tree especially in the multi-trunk version. In spring, the leaves begin in basic leaf-green then bursts with white flowers. The flowers bring out the fruit and red leaves. In the fall the leaves turn a deeper burgundy. Chokecherries are lovely, small, dark berries that birds adore. The cherry is edible and high in antioxidants. If you’re faster than the birds then you can make chokecherrry jams and jellies!

4. Chanticlear Pear – Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’

Height 25′-35′, width 15′-25′. In the spring the tree sends out creamy white blossoms which transform into small fruit that stay on the tree. Dark green leaves take over in the summer. The fall color is golden red to orange and sometimes reddish purple. The Chanticlear Pear produces tiny fruit that some say are edible and some say are too sour to eat. The tree holds onto its fruit most of the winter making it a very clean fruit tree. Birds enjoy the small fruit and the tree provides food for the birds throughout the winter months when food sources can be scarce.

5. Fruit Trees!

This tree category opens up a whole world. I really like the idea of fruiting trees that provide winter bird food and the thought of having a ridiculous amount of apples and cherries is so very appealing! My daughter came up with the idea of an apple tree and Mike let us know that there is a huge array of fruiting trees that grow very well in our climate. From the Gleaning of Denver project, I learned first-hand that cherry trees grow very well in our area, even in downtown Denver. Apple trees however must be planted together – one apple tree will not pollinate and therefore will not bare fruit. There may be room in my front yard for two trees and fruit varieties may fit the bill. Many fruit trees, including the marvelous honeycrisp, are medium height and would do well in the full sun of front yard.

For me, this tree replacement is a thoughtful process. I want a tree that will look great and provide shade and most importantly will be a good long-term choice for me and the next owner of my house. I’m not sure we’ll still be in the house in the next five years so this tree needs to be functional for us now and add value to the house for a potential sale years down the road.

Aside from the asthetics and home sale ramifications, I want to plant a tree with my kids. My hope is that they will learn a little about creating something that can potentially live as long as they do and have a lasting impression on people’s lives.

Imagine the smile that will come across people’s faces when they see a colorful tree in the spring or the summer or the fall, the joy that is spread when home-grown apples are shared with neighbors, family and friends or with local food banks.

A new study conducted by the USDA Forest Service published recently shows that more trees in a neighborhood is cause for reduced crime rates. When a criminal sees a neighborhood with many large trees there is a perception that the area is better cared for and the residents are potentially more aware of the goings-on. Trees and shrubs that obstruct a home can lead to greater crime risk for an individual home yet it’s believed that large trees in the neighborhood can reduce crime rates.

All the more reason to make a thoughtful tree choice. I’m leaning toward the Flamingo Boxelder Maple because of the numerous color evolutions through the season.

At Tagawa, fruit trees are currently 25% off. Newsletter subscribers get 20% off one item per visit! Trees can be planted through the fall in our Colorado climate. The knowledgable staff at Tagawa can help you find the perfect tree!

What tree will you choose for a cooler and safer home?

Heather Ruch
Author: Heather Ruch

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  1. Thank you for doing this research, Heather! A couple of excellent privacy aspens died in our neighbor’s yard last year…now we watch eachother do dishes 😉 I love the fruit tree idea!

  2. I love that you did all the homework of choosing a tree for me! I think I might plant a couple of apple trees in my back yard this year…keep up the good work mile high gardener…”Treebeard would be so proud” :0)

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