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Endurance Through a Headwind

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Photo by Leah Fain Photo by Leah Fain

If you're cleaning up downed trees, give some thought to what yo replace them with

CRACK…SNAP…Oh NO! If you are like most area residents, these past two wind storms have made at least a bit of a mess of your landscape. Some areas were hit hard along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille and then unexpectedly, even in the shelter of town, during the recent sustained winds. If your landscape has some unexpected holes and too much sun beating down on you… consider planting some hardwood species of trees that should withstand more of a beating and last longer in a landscape.  

First instincts lead people to want the fastest growing tree, for instant shade or privacy. This leads many to choose the twitter of the aspen leaf, and large spreading willows and poplar trees that reach heights quickly. These trees do provide quicker relief, but sometimes homeowners overlook that these are very soft woods with a shorter life span than other, slower growing trees. 

We are fortunate that one of the oldest living trees on earth, the Bristlecone Pine, could actually grow in our own backyard. This is a lustrous, long-needled, irregular evergreen whose family monarch, “Methuselah,” has been documented to live in the White Mountains of California for over 4.800 years. Now that is some strong roots! It grows best in dry, rocky soil, slowly to a height of 40 to 60 feet.  

What shocked me most about this last storm is the many very tall evergreen trees that literally fell out of the ground with large plots of soil, usually very wet soil, with them. Many of these pines and spruce were planted near drainage ditches and in now over-irrigated lawns that have made their roots vulnerable as they reached top heights. 

The Paper, Grey & River Birch love the wet soils found alongside creeks and spring flood zones.  Being deer resistant is also a plus, growing to 25 to 30 feet tall with graceful chalky white peeling bark as it ages.

The Buckeye, also known as the Horse chestnut, is a widely utilized hardwood in the Midwest, though not used as much in the West. It has large, pyramid-shaped flowers that stand up strong and showy in both white or red in June. These large-leafed, deep green wonders drape great stands of shade with the white horse chestnut reaching almost 60 feet tall and the red flowering horse chestnut reaching almost 40 feet. The only homeowner complaint with the buckeye or horse chestnut is the hard shelled, spiny, seed-nuts that drop in the fall, which are poisonous if ingested. Interestingly enough, parts of the oil seed are used medicinally for varicose veins.

Even the Flowering Cherries that bear the beautiful early spring sprays of pink and white blossoms are a great 24 to 30 foot choice for shade when power lines are a factor. With beautiful, reddish bark and splashes of fall yellow color, the Kwanzan or Mt Fuji are the hardiest of the Japanese cherries that will give decades of great, year-round interest. 

Other sturdy, long-lived trees include the oaks, green ash and maples.  Choose wisely and the next time the wind blows you may not have as much to clean up. 

Nancy Hastings grew up on a 300+-acre farm and now is co-owner of All Seasons Garden and Floral in Sandpoint. She and her husband John have been cultivating community gardens and growing for 16 years in North Idaho. You can reach them with garden questions or sign up for classes at allseasonsgardenandfloral (at)gmail.com.

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Nancy Hastings Nancy Hastings grew up on a 300+ acre farm and is co-owner of All Seasons Garden and Floral in Sandpoint, She and her husband John have been cultivating community gardens and growing for 15 years in North Idaho. You can reach them with garden questions or sign up for classes atllseasonsgardenandfloral(at)gmail.com.

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gardening, Bonner County, trees, storms, landscaping, Get Growing, high winds, Leah Fain

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