Consider a maple as a shade tree

By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru

Deciduous trees often are referred to in more general terms as shade trees, given this is one of the most valuable attributes trees of this type exhibit.
Although deciduous trees lose their leaves in the late fall, the spectacular showing from early spring (when the first delicate buds appear) to late fall (when all the glory of their autumn tones appears) makes these one of the more interesting forms in landscapes today.
There are many types of deciduous trees, many of which will grow in our Zone 4. One of the most popular being the many species of maples.
Maples definitely are one of the more colourful shade trees that possess a dramatic structure and are hardy to our zone. Although most maples start their leafing period in hues of green or red, every type of maple has an incredible range of autumn tones once they prepare to enter their dormant stage each fall.
Maple trees need good, well-drained soil for their appropriate growth. They also prefer a location with full sunlight throughout the day.
Also keep in mind that a maple tree grows very large, will live more than 200 years, and has an extensive root system capable of breaking through cement foundations, so you must select a site a fair distance from the house, septic system, and sewer/utility lines and wires.
Do not underestimate the needs for space for a maple even though the tree you are planting now is very small.
You can plant maples anytime during the growing season, but experts claim fall is the best season to plant as the chilly or cool weather is known to augment the growth of the roots.
You always must remember to plant the tree deeply in a hole that should be twice as wide as the container and in the shape of a saucer. This will enable the roots to spread out well and easily, which is a must for maples.
Once planted, add a layer of mulch around the trunk of the tree to help retain the soil moisture.
Remember to water the newly-planted maple trees well. In well-drained soil, this may mean daily for the first growing season.
The following is a list of the most desirable maple tree species that grow successfully in our area, many of which are found naturally in the forests within the district:
Natural species:
•Manitoba Maple (Acer negundo)
This tree grows very commonly in our district. Although it grows very large in a short matter of time in comparison to the other species, it can be less desirable due to its irregular maple-shaped leaves, prolific suckering, weak wood, and messy characteristics.
This species always is dropping something throughout the season, such as leaves, branches, sap, and keys, which creates a lot of clean-up.
•Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
This native tree is well adapted to yard conditions and moister soils. Excellent specimen tree producing red flowers before leaves appear.
This will become a very large tree with a very nice form. I have had success with this species in my yard in both Fort Frances and Thunder Bay.
•Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
Very hardy, rapid-growing tree. Foliage is light green above and silvery beneath while the leaves are more deeply cut than the other species.
Although susceptible to maple gall mites (the little red bumps on the leaves), this is the best choice if you want a rapidly-growing, attractive shade tree.
•Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
Canada’s native tree known for its brilliant fall colour and for the maple syrup it yields in the spring.
Slow growing, and recommended for spacious areas.
Hybridized species:
•Autumn Flame Red Maple (Acer rubrum ‘Autumn Flame’)
Slower growing, with smaller leaves than species. But Autumn Flame produces a very symmetrical, rounded crown and brilliant red leaves in the fall.
One of the hardiest.
•Summer Red Red Maple (Acer rubrum ‘Summer Red’)
Outstanding burgundy-coloured red foliage throughout the summer. Then in autumn, older leaves turn yellow while younger ones become orange or purple before falling.
Forms a dense, broad tree providing welcome summer shade. Needs to watered during times of low precipitation.
Tip: If leaves start to revert back to green, it needs watering.
Highly recommended by the Gardening Guru.
•Skinner Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum ‘Skinneri’)
A cutleaf form of Silver Maple, the leaves resembles the one of the Japanese Maple. Leaves are very delicate and flutter softly in the breeze.
A more upright and compact tree (branches closer to the trunk) than the natural silver maple. A very interesting ornamental tree with medium green leaves in summer and orange/red colour in fall.
Highly recommended by the Gardening Guru.
•Sugar Maple Legacy (Acer saccharum ‘Legacy’)
Sugar Maple Legacy produces a very symmetrical oval crown. This, combined with its glossy dark green leaves, makes it one of the most handsome Sugar Maple in summer.
It leaves are quite tough, and resist leaf tatter and drought.
•Amur Maple (Acer ginnala)
A maple shrub (not a tree) that has more delicate leaves that turn brilliant red in the fall. Makes a great landscape speciman.
Can be kept trimmed to maintain a desirable shape and size, as well.
Lives about 20-25 years, and grows abut 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide if left to grow on their own.
Can be used to create a fantastic hedge, property, or wind break.
The Japanese maples are much desired by gardeners, but are not cold tolerant to Zone 4.
Japanese maples are shrubs that have a lacier, more delicate leaf and do not grow as large as the other maples listed above.
I do not recommend them for our zone, but the odd gardener in Rainy River District and Thunder Bay do have them successfully growing in a sheltered (corner of fence), sunny backyard.
So if you feel you have the right microclimate, go ahead and try one.
Hopefully this column has provided you with enough information for you to decide on a maple species for your yard.
There is a lot to choose from, so you can pick something that suits your requirments.

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