Dirt on Gardening

Autumn is a great time of year to plant trees. Tree roots have some time to grow without the stress of growing leaves, blooming or setting seed.

Trees add important design elements to the garden landscape — shade, structure and color elements — to name a few. A type of tree that is uncommon but very important in the garden is a vertical accent tree, one that is narrow with branches that grow in a tight upward pattern.

When planted appropriately, vertical accent trees are the punctuation marks of the garden. A tall, skinny tree on either side of an object, such as a house, can act as a frame for the object. A vertical accent located in the front of a garden bed will make the space around the tree seem deeper. Located in the background of the bed, a vertical accent becomes the focal point.

Vertical evergreens are commonly used as screens or hedges. Multiple vertical accents can also be used to mark a path through a garden.

A vertical evergreen that will survive in the Ozarks is Chinese juniper, Juniperus chinensis, “spearmint.” This tree reaches about 20 feet in height and only three to four feet in width. It grows fast and thick with dark green foliage, preferring full sun and alkaline soil. It will also tolerate drought.

Juniperus communis, “Gold Cone,” is another juniper that will tolerate the sometimes-extreme Ozark weather. It reaches about 10 feet tall and two feet wide at maturity with foliage that has yellow coloring.

The common boxwood also has a tall, narrow variety – Buxus sempervierens, “Graham Blandy.” This boxwood grows about nine feet tall and one to two feet wide. Its deep green leaves turn bronze in the winter.

If the gardener is looking for a deciduous vertical accent tree, the columnar English oak, Uqerus robur forma fastiga, will bring height to a dramatic level reaching 50 feet at maturity with 10 to 12 feet diameter branches.

There are several varieties of columnar English beech trees, Fagus sylvatica, that reach more than 80 feet in height at maturity. “Dawyck” and “Fastigiata” varieties reach about 10 feet in diameter and turn yellow in the fall. There’s also a golden leaved variety of columnar English beech —“Dawyck Gold”— and a purple leaved variety of columnar beech — “Dawyck Purple.”

It’s important to note that columnar English oak and English beech are very slow growing.

Keep in mind that unlike many traditionally shaped trees, vertical accent trees provide very little shade, so they can be easily used in the garden landscape with sun loving plants.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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