Trees with leaves and trees with needles
What you need to know about growing on our soils with our climate:
- Our soils are primarily calcareous. That means they do not require lime to make things grow. And adding lime will actually harm plants growing in an alkaline soil. We sell a small test kit that will appease any doubts you might have. Chelated iron will make a huge difference on most any plant growing on our soils.
- We have loess soils. Windblown tiny particles cover southwest Iowa. The loess soils hold water like a dollar and a stingy banker. The result is that some trees do not do well on them. Trees that do not grow well at all in Council Bluffs include; Rubrum maples, Norway Maples and Sugar Maples are hardy for this zone, but I have seen them crash and burn on job sites over the last 45 years. When the Elms died 50 years ago the tree of choice was sugar maple. They got planted all over Council Bluffs. My first 15 years in business were spent answering questions about why sugars and other varieties suffered. Experience is the best teacher.
- The hardiest tree for a compacted sterile soil is Hackberry. It is strong, has an interesting bark when mature and provides good shade. But no interesting foliage colors other than green.
- Kentucky Coffee tree is very sustainable. It is male and female. The female trees have pods. It has great organic shapes and a unique double compound leaf.
- Blaze Maple (Acer freemanii) is our number one selling shade tree. It can be weak wooded at times. I have been growing this tree at our Underwood farm for 20 years. It is fast. It has good fall coloration and likes all kinds of soil types.
- Burr Oak is the state tree of Iowa. It is slow, but once established with a deep tap root will actually catch up in growth to most trees. Pin Oaks are a no no. There is ground in Southwest Iowa where they can be grown. But run a soil test first. You must have acidic soil. We do not sell Pin Oak. But Red, Chinkapin, and English Oaks are all great.
- Skyline Locust has a small leaf, is fast growing and strong wooded. A preferred tree because there are no leaves to rake–they are too small.
- Weeping Willow is soft wooded and messy and likes lots of water. It grows well.
- Catalpa is one of my favorites. I dislike selling lollipop trees all the time. A catalpa has all the characteristics I enjoy. A big long messy bean pod, giant white flowers, never grows straight. Low branched so a kid can climb on it or nail up a tree house. It gets the best giant caterpillars you can use for catfish. It has the character an artist would choose to paint. Just a perfect tree.
- Elms: I recall walking through DDT mist back in the 1960s as arborists fought to save the hundreds of elms planted in our city. Their magnificent arched canopies made you feel like you were in another world. Two years later they were all cut down. A huge USDA program was launched to find trees resistant to Ceratocystis ulmi. Better known as the Dutch Elm disease. We have been planting those Elm varieties in Council Bluffs for the last 20 years and have seen the return of this stalwart favorite. We have them planted in a lot of locations and they have proven remarkably hardy.
- Ginkgo is as strong a tree as you will find and there is no other tree on the planet with more disease and bug resistance. Because it is a relic which was nurtured for eons in a Buddhist monastery. For that reason it has no natural enemies. Unless you are young do not expect to see a mature tree. It is the slowest growing tree on the planet. Plant selected male varieties only. The females produce a putrid fruit.
- I have two Horse Chestnuts planted in my lawn. Their beautiful red spring flowers are unique to the area. Good tree. Grows on the slow side. We have limited quantities.
- Birch trees used to be off my planting list, but a few things have changed. First thing you must know is that Birch trees require oceans of water in the spring when they first begin to grow. Plant them and wait for rain the first year and you will probably be digging it up. Birch trees can get borers and there used to be no solution. We now have a tree and shrub drench that will effectively control borers. The most planted birch is the river birch. It has a tendency to get iron chlorosis. We have an iron injection for homeowners that will cure that as well.
- Pine tree had a nematode come through 7 years ago and devastate a number of large groves of Scotch Pine and Austrian Pine. I thought the white pine were immune, but I did see one instance that was brought in to the store. I had nematode damage at my home on both scotch and Norway pines, but none on white pine.
- White Pine cannot be planted on poor soil. Let me repeat. White pine cannot be planted on poor soils and be expected to grow and thrive. If you have good black soil they are the best. I enjoy mine immensely. Beautiful soft fragrant needles sway in the breeze.
- Ponderosa Pine is quite hardy and is our replacement tree for scotch and Norway Pines. It will grow in poorer conditions.
- Colorado Blue Spruce. We have gorgeous blue spruce and usually sell out.
We had Norway Spruce planted in our old neighborhood up on Lainson Avenue. I believe old man Poncelo planted them. I only meant him once when I was a scant four. We were all playing ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, last one down is a (racist slur). A whole group of youngsters got a respect lesson from a hard working Italian immigrant. We need to call children out more when they are disrespectful. It does take a village effort. (I have mentored at the Southwest Iowa Juvenile Detention Center the past 14 years) With all that said,I do like the majestic green weeping branches of Norway Spruce. The oldest evergreen trees planted and still standing in Council Bluffs are Norway Spruce.