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All About Trees  

Whether aware of it or not, all of us like to be around trees because they make life more pleasant.

We respond to the presence of trees beyond simply observing their beauty. We feel serene, peaceful, restful, and tranquil when around trees...we are “at home” there. In studies, hospital patients have been shown to recover from surgery more quickly when their hospital room offered a view of trees.

The stature, strength, and endurance of trees give them a cathedral-like quality. Because of their potential for long life, trees frequently are planted as living memorials. We often become personally attached to trees that we or those we love have planted.

Most trees in cities or communities are planted to provide beauty or shade. These are two excellent reasons for their use. Not only are trees a beautiful addition to any outdoor environment, strategically placed ones (on the west side of a home or building) can help to reduce cooling costs during the warm season.


The Benefits of Trees

Communal Benefits - Even though trees may be private property, their size often makes them part of the community as well. Communities where many trees exist feel more inviting and are asthetically more appealing. They provide background to and soften, compliment, or enhance the architecture.

Environmental Benefits - Trees alter the environment in which we live by moderating climate, improving air quality, conserving water, and harboring wildlife.

Climate control is obtained by moderating the effects of sun, wind, and rain. Radiant energy from the sun is absorbed or deflected by leaves on deciduous trees in the summer and is only filtered by branches of deciduous trees in winter. It's nice to have some shady refuge around during the hot days of summer. In winter, we value the sun’s radiant energy. Therefore, we should plant only small or deciduous trees on the south or east side of homes.

The root sytems of moistue-loving trees such as riverbirch and weeping willow help to soak up water in boggy areas of the yard or landscape. Other moisture-loving plants can be planted along with them to form a 'bog garden'.

Temperature in the vicinity of trees is cooler than that away from trees. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling. By using trees in the cities, planners are able to moderate the heat-island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas. The same thing goes for around your home.

Air quality can be improved through the planting of trees. The Atlanta metro area, particularly the southside, could sure benefit! Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain then washes the pollutants to the ground. Leaves of trees also absorb carbon dioxide from the air to form carbohydrates that are used in the trees structure and function. In this process, leaves also absorb other air pollutants - such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide - then giving off oxygen.

By planting trees, we return to a more natural, less artificial environment. Trees will can create a wildlife habitat on your property, attracting birds and other wildlife by providing homes and sometimes food for them. Planting trees is an excellent way to restore natural harmony to the urban environment.

Economic Benefits - Trees have value and become more valuable as they grow larger. In addition to the economic benefits associated with energy costs, trees also substancially increase the value of your property as they grow larger. Trees are a wise investment of funds because landscaped homes are more valuable than nonlandscaped homes. Hybridizing in the modern day has helped to bring us trees that grow much faster than their parents did.

Color - Flowering trees bring color to your landscape in almost every season. Tulip trees and Okame cherry are first to bloom in spring. Next comes redbuds, dogwoods and the other flowering cherries. Crape myrtles bloom during the summer and are unrivaled in longevity of bloom (75-100 days). In fall, hybrid Maples such as Autumn Flame and Autumn Blazeset your landscape on fire with their fire red foliage display. The Gingko tree produces the most spectacular display of yellow you've ever seen on a tree., Many of the Faurieii hybrid crape myrtles have beautiful fall foliage in shades of maroon, orange, or red. Bald cypress and the evergreen cryptomeria 'Yoshino' show off in fall with their orange to rust foliage.

Texture - Riverbirch, elms, bald cypress, and many of the Fauriei hybrid crape myrtles bring winter interest to the landscape with their attractive shedding bark.


Fast growing trees can quickly add substantial value to your property.


Heating costs can be reduced substancially when a home has a windbreak created by hedges or screens using large growing evergreen shrubs or trees.


Tree Selection

Tree selection is one of the most important investment decisions a home owner makes when landscaping a home. Considering that most trees have the potential to outlive the people who plant them, the impact of this decision is one that can influence a lifetime. Match the tree to the site, and both lives will benefit.

The question most frequently asked of tree care professionals is “Which kind of tree do you think I should plant?” Before this question can be answered, a number of factors need to be considered. Think about the following questions:

  • Why is the tree being planted? Do you want the tree to provide shade, fruit, seasonal color, or act as a windbreak or screen?
  • What is the size and location of the planting site?
  • Does the space lend itself to a large, medium, or small tree?
  • Are there overhead or below-ground wires or utilities in the vicinity?
  • Do you need to consider clearance for sidewalks, patios, or driveways?
  • Are there other trees in the area?
  • Which type of soil conditions exist? Does the soil in the area retain moisture, or is it well-drained and drier?
  • And finally, do you need a tree that will grow well in sun, or shade?

Asking and answering these questions before selecting a tree will help you choose the “right tree for the right place.”

Form and Size


When making a selection about form, consider mature tree size. Does the site require a narrower growing tree or can it afford a wide growing tree? How tall can the tree get where you are planting it? Select a form and size that will fit the planting space provided. Above are basic tree shapes and height categories as follows:

  1. 8-12' height - Semi-dwarf crape myrtles and tree-form shrubs .
  2. 12-25' height -Crape myrtles, Japanese maples, purple leaf plum
  3. 25-40' height - Flowering cherry, Trident maple, riverbirch, redbud, dogwood
  4. 40-60' height - Maples, elms, bald cypress in dry soil, sourwood
  5. 60-80' height - Many oaks, gingko
  6. 60-100' height - Bald cypress in wet soil

Depending on your site restrictions, you can choose from among hundreds of combinations of form and size. You may choose a small-spreading tree such as crape myrtle in a location with overhead utility lines. You may select evergreen screen trees to provide a visual barrier between two homes or buildings. You may choose large, vase-shaped trees such as Drake elm to create an arbor over a driveway or city street.

Site Conditions

Selecting a tree that will thrive in a given set of site conditions is the key to long-term tree survival. The following is a list of the site conditions to consider before selecting a tree for planting:

  • Soil conditions - If the soil at the site is moisture retentive select trees such as riverbirch, weeping willow, bald cypress, or the evergreen weeping yaupon holly. The bald cypress will even grow in standing water! Red maples, Nutalli oaks and southern magnolias also tolerate damp soils fairly well. On the other hand, trees such as crape myrtles, redbuds, dogwoods prefer well-drained soils.
  • Exposure (sun or shade) - If the site receives sun all day long you definitely don't want to plant a tree such as a dogwood there. Dogwoods prefer shade or morning sun only. Other trees such as crape myrtles like it suny while some such as magnolias will tolerate sun or partial shade.
  • Space constraints - You wouldn't want to plant an oak that grows 50' + tall and 40' wide too close to your home or directly under powerlines. Instead, use trees such as Trident Maple (to 25' tall) or Crape Myrtles (from 10 - 25' tall). Riverbirch is a soft textured tree that can be used to fram your house, just plant them 12 to 15' off the corner. Also, make sure not to plant large growing shade trees too close to concrete or asphalt surfaces, swimming pools, foundations, or septic systems and lines. The root systems of weeping willows are highly invasive - make sure to plant them at least 30' away or more from septic lines and swimming pools.
  • In Summary - Before you make your final decisions, make sure the trees you have selected are “hardy” in your area and that you are planting them in the proper location. All of the trees stocked at Wilson Bros. Nursery are hardy in our area (zone 8).


Planting Your Trees

Think of the tree you just purchased as a lifetime investment. How well your tree, and investment, grows depends on the type of tree and location you select for planting, the care you provide when the tree is planted, and follow-up care the tree receives after planting.

Planting the Tree - The ideal time to plant trees and shrubs is during the dormant season - in the fall after leaf drop or early spring before budbreak. However, the trees stocked at Wilson bros. Nursery are container grown and therefore can be planted any time of year. Container grown trees have all of their roots in tact.

On the other hand, field dug 'balled and burlap' trees have had most all (90 to 95%) of their feeder roots cut away during the digging process and thus should only be planted during the winter season.

Wilson Bros. Nursery highly recommends planting container grown trees over field grown trees in your landscape. Why wait 2 to 3 years for a tree to recover from the shock of having its legs cut off?

To make sure that you plant your trees correctly visit Instructions For Planting A Tree where you will find detailed instructions and a pictorial diagram.

SEE: How To Transplant an Existing Tree



Mulching can reduce environmental stress by providing trees with a stable root environment that is cooler and contains more moisture than the surrounding soil. Mulch can also prevent mechanical damage by keeping machines such as lawn mowers and string trimmers away from the tree’s base.

To be most effective in all of these functions, wood mulch or pinestraw should be spread 2 to 3 inches deep and cover the entire root system, which usually extends just beyond branch spread of the tree. If the area and activities happening around the tree do not permit the entire area to be mulched, it is recommended that you mulch as much of the area under the drip line of the tree as possible.

CAUTION: When placing mulch, care should be taken not to cover the actual trunk of the tree. This mulch-free area, 1 to 2 inches wide at the base, is sufficient to avoid moist bark conditions and prevent trunk decay. Plastic should not be used over the root systems of trees or shrubs because it interferes with the exchange of gases and water between soil and air, which inhibits root growth. Thicker mulch layers, 5 to 6 inches deep or greater, may also inhibit these exchanges.


Fertilization is another important aspect of tree care. Trees require certain nutrients (essential elements) to function and grow. Urban landscape trees can be growing in soils that do not contain sufficient available nutrients for satisfactory growth and development. In these situations, it may be necessary to fertilize to improve plant vigor.

Fertilizing a tree can improve growth; however, if fertilizer is not applied wisely, it may not benefit the tree at all and may even adversely affect the tree.

NOTE: Mature trees making satisfactory growth may not require fertilization. When considering supplemental fertilizer, it is important to know which nutrients are needed and when and how they should be applied.

Soil conditions, especially pH and organic matter content, vary greatly, sometimes making the proper selection and use of fertilizer is a somewhat complex process. When dealing with a mature tree that provides considerable benefit and value to your landscape, it is worth the time and investment to have the soil tested for nutrient content. Any arborist can arrange to have your soil tested at a soil testing laboratory and can give advice on application rates, timing, and the best blend of fertilizer for each of your trees.

Mature trees have expansive root systems that extend from 2 to 3 times the size of the leaf canopy. A major portion of actively growing roots is located outside the tree’s drip line. It is important to understand this fact when applying fertilizer to your trees as well as your turf.

CAUTION: Many lawn fertilizers contain weed and feed formulations that may be harmful to your trees. When you apply a broadleaf herbicide to your turf, remember that tree roots coexist with turf roots. The same herbicide that kills broadleaf weeds in your lawn is picked up by tree roots and can harm or kill your broadleaf trees if applied incorrectly.

Understanding the actual size and extent of a tree’s root system before you fertilize is necessary to determine how much, what type, and where to best apply fertilizer.

TIP: Generally, we fertilize trees with 14-7-7 Nursery & Landscape fertilizer. This is a slow-release fertilizer that contains an element package.

When planting new trees we always use Agriform fertilizer tablets - 1 per hal-inch caliper of the tree. Measure caliper 12" up from the base of the tree. Caliper = trunk diameter.


Pruning is the most common tree maintenance procedure next to watering. Pruning trees is often desirable or necessary to remove dead, diseased, or insect-infested branches and to improve tree structure, enhance vigor, or maintain safety. Major pruning of trees should be performed during winter when the tree is totally dormant. Because each cut has the potential to change the growth of (or cause damage to) a tree, no major branch should be removed without a reason.

The tree that is pruned incorrectly most often is the Crape Myrtle. Most people unknowingly cut them back way too far. That's why we included a page on this site that shows how to properly prune a crape myrtle.

Be careful how many limbs you remove from any tree. Removing limbs is removing foliage. Removing to much foliage from a tree has two distinct effects on its growth. Removing leaves reduces photosynthesis and may reduce overall growth. That is why pruning should always be performed sparingly. Overpruning is extremely harmful because without enough leaves, a tree cannot gather and process enough sunlight to survive. Understanding how the tree responds to pruning should assist you when selecting branches for removal.

Pruning mature trees may require special equipment, training, and expertise. If the pruning work requires climbing, the use of a chain or hand saw, or the removal of large limbs, then using personal safety equipment, such as protective eyewear and hearing protection, is a must.

Arborists can provide a variety of services to assist in performing the job safely and reducing risk of personal injury and damage to your property. They also are able to determine which type of pruning is necessary to maintain or improve the health, appearance, and safety of your trees.

An expert arborist in our area is Brian Arnold. He can be contacted at 678-432-6892 or visit his company website.


Tree Inspection

Tree inspection is an evaluation tool to call attention to any change in the tree’s health before the problem becomes too serious. By providing regular inspections of mature trees at least once a year, you can prevent or reduce the severity of future disease, insect, and environmental problems. During tree inspection, be sure to examine four characteristics of tree vigor: new leaves or buds, leaf size, twig growth, and absence of crown dieback (gradual death of the upper part of the tree).

A reduction in the extension of shoots (new growing parts), such as buds or new leaves, is a fairly reliable cue that the tree’s health has recently changed. To evaluate this factor, compare the growth of the shoots over the past three years. Determine whether there is a reduction in the tree’s typical growth pattern.

Further signs of poor tree health are trunk decay, crown dieback, or both. These symptoms often indicate problems that began several years before. Loose bark or deformed growths, such as trunk conks (mushrooms), are common signs of stem decay.

Any abnormalities found during these inspections, including insect activity and spotted, deformed, discolored, or dead leaves and twigs, should be noted and watched closely.

If you have many large, mature trees on your property you might want to consider having a certified arborist do a yearly check on them. Brian Arnold & Company is a local tree and shrub expert serving Henry County and surrounding areas.

Diseases - Disease organisms affect many types of trees. The trees we stock at the nursery are selected for their resistance to diseases. For instance, all of the Crape Myrtle varieties we carry at the nursery are Fauriei Hybrids. These hybrids are highly resistant to powdery mildew. Disease Control for Plants & Trees is a basic guide for helping you to identify and treat for common diseases.

Insects - Excpet for the Asian Ambrosia beetle, which has claimed the lives of a few young Yoshino and Kwansan cherry trees most insect problems we've identified in our area have not been life threatening to trees. Probably the most common insects are aphids and the Japanese beetles. Neither do irreparable damage to healthy trees. Visit the Insect Control Homepage to identify insects and find if treatment is necessary.

In Summary - None of the tree varieties we sell at Wilson Bros Nursery are experiencing any significant threat by insects or diseases. NOTE: We are watching seiridium cankor , a condition attacking stressed and unhealthy Leyland Cypress. And of course the Red Tip leaf spot.

DO NOT plant Red Tips in your landscape, no matter what anybody tells you! Wilson Bros. Nursery has not sold a Red Tip Photinia since 1988 - the year it opened for business. The leaf spot contracted by these plants is fatal.

CAUTION: If you are planning to plant a screen with evergreen trees consider using something other than Leyland cypress. A disease known as seiridium cackor is showing up in mature stands of these plants. There are many attractive alternatives to choose from.


Personal preferences play a major role in the selection process. Now that your homework is done, you are ready to select a species for the planting site you have chosen. Make sure to use the information you have gathered about your site conditions, and balance it with the aesthetic decisions you make related to your personal preferences.

The species must be:

  • suitable for the geographic region (hardy)
  • tolerant to the moisture and drainage conditions of your soil
  • be resistant to pests and diseases in your area
  • and have the right form and size for the site and function you have envisioned.

Remember, the beautiful picture of a tree you looked at in a magazine or book was taken of a specimen that is growing vigorously because it was planted in the right place. If your site conditions tell you the species you selected will not do well under those conditions, do not be disappointed when the tree does not perform in the same way.

Remember, if you have any questions Wilson Bros. Nursery is there to help you. We will do everything we can to help you to plant the “right tree in the right place.” It is better to get a professional involved early to help you make the right decision than to call him or her later to ask if you made the wrong decision. A good place to start is the Tree Home Page.

NOTE: If you have planted a tree purchased from Wilson Bros. Nursery and there seems to be a problem developing, please be sure to give us a call as quickly as possible so we can help in determining what the problem might be and offer solutions.

Crape Myrtles


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