Like most aspen trees, the quake or quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) has left on flat petioles that shimmer when even the slightest breeze passes over them. The leaves appear to be quaking, and this gives the quaking aspen its name.
The quaking aspen has a vast range, from Canada all the way down to Mexico. However, the tree thrives in the cold but not bitterly cold climates, from around Hardiness Zones 2 to 5. The aspen likes full sun and moist soils, though young trees don’t like standing water. The tree is known for quickly repopulating areas that have been scarred by fire. In the wild, the tree can propagate through its suckers and vast colonies of cloned trees can be seen in the mountains of Alaska and Colorado. Indeed, naturalists believe that one settlement of cloned quaking aspen trees is the oldest and most massive living thing on earth. Quaking aspens can be challenging to grow from seeds as the vast stands of cloned trees are, of course, all of one sex.
The Aspen is a fast-growing tree that can grow to about 82 feet high with a crown that can be around 20 feet wide. The smooth bark is white or gray and is embellished with black knots and scars. As the tree ages, its bark becomes furrowed. The leaves are smallish with round teeth. They're about three inches around and three inches long. The leaves on the saplings are much longer. The tree produces two and a half inch long catkins in spring, before the leaves sprout. There are either male or female aspen trees and if pollination occurs the seeds are borne in a cottony material that allows them to be distributed far and wide during the summer. The tree starts producing flowers when it's around three years old and generating lots of seeds when it's between 10 and 20 years old.
In the fall, the leaves of the quaking aspen turn a bright, buttery yellow with a tinge of pink. Like its cousin the Lombardy poplar, the aspen makes an excellent privacy screen if planted in a row. They also help prevent soil erosion.
Gardeners who want to attract butterflies to their property should know that the Aspen is a food plant for the caterpillars of the beautiful Viceroy, American White Admiral and Mourning Cloak butterflies, the Emperor moth and the Twin-spotted Sphinx moth.
Poplar trees are fast growing and adaptable to different or changes in soil. These most trees of this variety can reach a mature height between 40 and 60ft. The widths vary per poplar type but can range anywhere from 10ft to 40ft. Most poplars do well in US hardiness zones 3-9
The Lombardy poplar tree is a beauty. Its branches grow at an upward angle which makes this tree perfect if you want to add some privacy to your backyard or any wooded area. Their height of the Lombardy poplar also makes the tree a natural wind blocker. It does better in drier soils but needs full sunlight for maximum health. In these conditions, this tree may grow up to 6ft annually! Its preference for dry soil also means this tree will do well in a draught. The foliage of the Lombardy poplar stays a bright green throughout most of the year but even when the leaves fall the dense branches and leaves will still allow for privacy.
The tulip poplar is perhaps the most beautiful of these three varieties. At the beginning of the year it has bright green leaves which start turning yellow, and in the autumn are a vibrant gold color. The branches widen out at the base and get thinner towards the top. Tulip poplars are fragrant trees that provide nectar for hummingbirds and other various birds. The blooms for which the tulip poplar is named after are large golden blossoms that resemble tulips. The cup-shaped flowers are heavy with nectar and flood the air with a floral scent when they are blooming. It is also very pest resistant compared to other poplars and trees in general.
The hybrid poplar is produced when pollen from one tree is spread to and fertilizes another tree. The branches of this tree grow up into an oval shape. The hybrid poplar is the fastest growing popular and can even grow up to an incredible 8ft per year. It is great to plant for adding some natural shade to your yard. This tree is also able to handle various types of soils and is also almost completely disease and pest resistant. The hybrid poplar can also be used to help stabilize eroding land because it has a dense, complicated root system. Like most poplars, this one can also be planted to block people and livestock from harsh winds.
The Colorado Blue Spruce Tree is described in the “Handbook on Conifers” as one of the five most rare conifers in North America. Because of its outstanding form, natural beauty, and unique adaptability; it is one of the most popular ornamental conifers in the United States. The Colorado Blue Spruce grows at a slow to medium rate and at maturity can reach up to 75 feet in height. This tree is hugely deer resistant, drought tolerant, flood tolerant and has the most vigorous root systems of all the Western Spruce. The branches of this majestic tree feature silvery-blue needles that are approximately 1 to 2 inches long. These needles are very prickly and surround the branch at right angles. The Colorado Blue Spruce blooms in late spring to early summer with green, orange and purple flowers. These flowers give way to light brown cones that are typically 3 to 4 inches long. It is a favorite among summertime nesting birds, and the needles are enjoyed by browsing deer. This tree is generally used on the perimeters of property for privacy, and its outstanding color makes it a high focal point in any landscape design.
Mature Width: 20 feet wide
Growth/Year: 12-24 feet
Sunlight: full sun
Soil Conditions grows in a wide range of conditions including acidic, sandy, wet or moist.
Botanical Name: Picea Pungens
Spruce trees are the fastest growing of all the spruces and can reach a height range of in between 40 to 60 feet. It is not unusual to hear of Norway Spruce trees in their natural setting that has reached 100 to 150 feet in height. This widespread tree is a native of Europe and is known as the Mountain Spruce tree there. This regal giant features sturdy, upright branches one-inch dark-green needles. On the mature trees, the foliage drapes down off of the large branches. The thick brown cones of the Spruce appear on the end of the branches and have a size range of 4 to 6 inches long. These are one of the most adaptable and hardy of the spruce species being both disease resistant and drought tolerant. Due to the deep spreading root system, this tree can withstand high winds, heavy snow, and thick ice. The Spruce is also a valuable asset to the wildlife as it provides shelter for small mammals, game, and deer. It also is a favorite nesting site for owl and birds of prey. The Norway Spruce is the ideal tree to use for wind breaking, privacy, and shade but it does require a massive landscape for the roots to expand and take hold.
Mature Width: 25-30 feet wide
Growth/Year: 3 +feet for the first 25 years
Sunlight: full sun
Soil Conditions: thrives in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained or clay
Botanical Name: Pinus
The Korean Boxwood is a broadleaf evergreen that at full maturity will stand approximately 3 to 4 feet tall. This slowly grown shrub is dense and compact with small, light green leaves. During the early spring, small greenish-yellow flowers will begin to appear. Although the flowers on the Korean Boxwood are sparse, these fragrant flowers attract butterflies and honeybees throughout the summer. This shrub is very tolerant of pruning and shearing which makes it the perfect choice for short hedges and topiary shapes. This is one of the few boxwood species that can tolerate extreme temperatures changes. In fact, it has been known to survive in temperatures as low as -20F degrees and as high as 110F degrees. In frigid climates, the foliage of this shrub will bronze during the winter months. The Korean Boxwood contains an alkaloid that becomes toxic when eaten by wildlife, so all wildlife tends to stay clear of it. This delightful hedge is often used as driveway borders, around patios and outbuildings on the property.
Mature Width: 4-6 feet wide
Growth/Year: 6 inches to 1 foot
Sunlight: full sun to partial shade
Soil Conditions: acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained and clay
The Privet or Ligustrum is a fast growing deciduous shrub that can reach up to 8 to 12 feet in height. Its width is typically half of the size of its height, and it can grow up to 3 feet per year. The dark green leaves on the Privet are approximately 2 to 3 inches long and have a very high gloss or sheen to them. In early summer this delight hedge will bloom with petite white flowers. These fragrant flowers are known to attract honeybees and a wide variety of butterflies. When the flowers are done blooming, this shrub becomes filled with a dark berry-like fruit. This fruit will attract not only songbirds but squirrels and chipmunks as well. This shrub takes to shearing and pruning very well. This makes the Privet an excellent choice for shaping into geometric designs. When using it as a privacy hedge, pruning it early in the season will encourage the shrub to produce thick and dense layers.
Mature Width: 4-6 feet wide
Growth/Year: 3-4 feet
Sunlight: thrives in both full sun and part shade.
Soil Conditions: Adaptable to a wide range of conditions including acidic, alkaline, well-drained, moist
Privet is an incredibly versatile plant. Fast growing, it is the perfect base for a thick plush hedge or shaped topiaries. With adequate water it will grow up to 3' in a single year and the only maintenance necessary is trimming.
Dark green oval leaves cover the plant for the entire growing season. The bark of the privet is smooth and runs from tan to gray. In late spring white flowers appear followed by berries which draw the birds. Any time after flowering, it is a good idea to perform the first pruning. For the thickest hedges, prune three to four times a season. Privet can also be used as both a living and a privacy fence.
Privet can be planted almost any time of the year. Space the plants a minimum of 18" apart and place in the partial shade to full sun. Privet also appreciates slightly wet soil. This plant is a perfect choice for beginners due to its minimal requirements, fast growth and the ability to tolerate air pollution.
Zones: 5 - 8
Mature Height: 10' - 16'
Mature Width: 10' - 15'
Growth per year: 3'
Sunlight: Full to Partial Shade
Soil Conditions: Slightly wet
Botanical name: Ligustrum