So you've got a new house. You know it's not a home 'til it's planted, but what do you plant after the sod gets laid? Plenty of people ask us about shade trees; it goes like this: fast growing, but not weak wooded, flowers and/or fall color, deciduous, big trees, please. Whew! Only a computer model could really be that perfect, but here's four favorites that meet three out of four criteria. Not bad, really.
Green Ash (Fraxinus Pennsyvalnica) averages 50'x30' at maturity. Fast growing, long-lived native whose flowers aren't especially exciting. But the fruit, winged samaras, look nifty and attract wildlife, and the yellow fall color rewards reliably. Deciduous green ash grows well in a wide range of soils and rabidly develops into a dense oval for excellet summer shade.
Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) doesn't have to be planted near water to thrive. Any full sun site will do for this deciduous native conifer whose fast first ten years produce a true cone-shaped shade tree. Mature trees average 50'x25' and each assumes a highly individualistic form. Emerald City green new leaves dazzle in the spring and warm red brown in fall. Durable wood, too.
Shurnard Oak (Quercus Shumardii) gets our vote for the best big landscape oak. Great shade comes from its upright, round form that grows rapidly to an average size 50'x40'. Shumard delivers consistently outstanding red fall colors on a long lived tree with very tough wood. Acorns are an inch in diameter on this native tree that grows best in full sun and a moist, well-drained soil.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum, including drummondii) adds an oval shape to our list. Growing to 40'x30' on average, red mape flowers on female trees in late winter; they glow against the gray sky. Dramatic fall colors range from deep red to yellow and orange, but the native tree isn't especially long lived. Plant in full sun in wet or dry soil. Even though they're easily transplanted, seedlings vary a lot.