Ask the experts which tree to pick for one that's
We're trying to get the best new trees we can to replace
four ash trees we lost to emerald ash borer. We liked those trees
but they were tough to garden under. They had lots of surface
roots. What's the best tree for optimists who are looking forward
to new trees with new gardens under them? - L.J. -
The best judge of that is someone who's gardened under many
different trees, in lots of situations. Since there are so many
tree species, it would take more than a lifetime to compare them
all. So we called friends with broad, long experience to ask which
Michigan hardy tree they would nominate for the honor. Each one
qualified their response with something on the order of, "Only
one?! Okay, if I have to choose just one tree to garden
Ginkgo is our own favorite, for its deep roots and high shade.
Hickory would be our number one, but some autumns the falling nuts
are downright dangerous.
Allan Armitage, author of the book we can't do
without, Herbaceous Perennial Plants likes gardening
under dogwood and adds, "pecan is the worst."
David Michener, world traveler and assistant curator at
University of Michigan's Matthaei Botanical Garden, likes Kentucky
coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus) for deep roots, light
shade and because it's in the pea family so it adds nitrogen to the
Roger Swain, formerly of PBS' Victory Garden and now with the
new program "People, Places and Plants," votes for a peach. "Fruit
trees need good ground... or they never bear well, so I say plant
them right in the perennial border." He says that the show of the
moment under his peach tree is blue bearded irises and ox-eye
daisies, blooming later than the ones out in the open.
Ann Hancock, likes mature white pines overhead. They're open and
airy, don't present much root competition and, "they're
Claire Dusak, horticulturist at Phipps Conservatory in
Pittsburgh says, "It has to be a Stewartia pseudo camellia, what a
tree! The one I grow under is single stemmed -- you couldn't do
much under the low shrubby ones. I didn't actually plant under it
but things seeded themselves under there and moved in, and it's so
Alan Barnhagen, director and horticulturist at Powell Botanical
Gardens outside Kansas City, first ruled out all the maples and
lindens, then settled on Kentucky coffee tree. When I told him it
was already on the list he said, "Oh good, then my
number two is yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea), another
legume to enrich the soil!"
Chuck Martin, curator of woody plants at Dow Gardens in Midland,
Michigan, says the biggest thing is to be under a tree that doesn't
give you much root competition. He votes for the swamp white oak
In the Wake of Emerald Ash Borer: Ash tree replacements
As the non-native insect, emerald ash borer (EAB), continues
killing billions of ash trees (Fraxinus species)
throughout eastern North America, there is as yet (2014)
little we can do to stop it. Here is a list of trees suitable for
replacing an ash at streetside or in your yard. It was compiled
from the choices offered by city foresters in our area, at the
epicenter of the emerald ash borer plague.
On our list we have included detailed descriptions of the trees.
For more about emerald ash borer, search those words here on our
site and visit the U.S. Forestry Service EAB information
page where you can learn about EAB status in your area, and the
latest on its control.
download the ash tree replacement list in pdf
I've developed a bad case of clover in my lawn this
year. Can anyone tell me what to use to get rid of it and when? -
To knock down clover in one application, pick a weedkiller with
the active ingredient dicamba. Others, such as 2, 4-D may have to
be applied several times.
Dale White, prescribes organic and conventional lawn care
products to customers every day and hears back from them which gave
the most success. "Dicamba is always in a concentrate, not
granules," he says. "Weed B® Gon Chickweed and Clover Killer is one
that will work."
"Your reader should be aware," White continued, "that when
clover takes over it may indicate a nitrogen deficiency, where
clover can grow better than the lawn can, so it does. Many people
want to use only organic things on their lawn and that's good, but
you can't just stop everything including the fertilizer."
Clover in the lawn? Maybe you should hold off on that
Prior to the invention of herbicides that can kill broadleaf
plants while leaving grass pretty much alone, every package of
grass seed came with clover in it. Clover, a pea family plant or
"legume," fixes nitrogen from the air, helping the grass
grow. Every bit of clover leaf that falls from a mower breaks down
to give up "free" nitrogen that the lawn could not otherwise have
gotten. Thus when herbicides became available, many groundskeepers
refused them since, "they'll kill my clover." Gradually, herbicide
marketers won out and clover began to be considered a weed.
Green thumbs up
to the monarch butterflies now in our yard. Sorry, guys, that
development eliminated almost all the milkweed hereabouts. I
promise to keep my patch going for you and to guard it from any
sprays that would taint the nectar and kill your caterpillars.
Green thumbs down
to waiting until fall if you find just the right plant now. The
shopper we overheard said, "I'll buy it later" about an
'Onondaga' viburnum, will likely be out of luck in fall. Its pretty
fruit will ripen in August to catch another buyer's eye.
Originally published 7/24/04