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Trees that merit planting in Seattle

    In the last newsletter I argued against certain trees that I deemed overplanted in Seattle. The following is a list of 20 trees that I am promoting. My goal is to encourage as much diversity as possible, but our dry summers make it difficult for many species to thrive unless they are watered. Most of the following trees, once established, are likely to perform adequately without being watered. Of course, this will vary according to the exposure, soil condition, and mulching.
    While some of the following are available only through mail-order nurseries, at least half are sold at local nurseries.

Chitalpa tashkentensis ---Chitalpa [Chilopsis linearis x Catalpa speciosa]
    Low, broad and shrubby. Big, showy pink or white flowers all summer. Dull yellow fall color.

Cotinus Coggygria ---Smoke Tree
    Shrubby sumach relative with fragrant foliage and airy seedclusters in summer. Great fall color. Comes in green- or purple-leaf versions, as well as hybrids. A giant shrub unless pruned to either tree form or kept to the shrub size and shape that you prefer.

Cupressus arizonica glabra ---Smooth Arizona Cypress
    Several pale bluish cultivars such as 'Blue Pyramid' and 'Silver Smoke' are gorgeous narrow evergreen conifers. The bark is a handsome, peeling reddish-brown.

Diospyros Kaki ---Kaki Persimmon
    Troublefree, colorful eastern Asian fruit tree. Glossy, bold foliage. Orange edible fruit in winter, resembles tomatoes clinging to the bare branches.

Embothrium coccineum ---Chilean Fire Tree
    A tropical-looking riot of fiery red hummingbird blossoms in spring; depressingly plain the rest of the year. Tends to be slender and tall. The leaves drop tardily in fall, or some remain evergreen.

Eucalyptus spp. ---Eucalypt
    Silvery-blue, fragrant broadleaf-evergreens of short but lovable life in western Washington. Buy only those species proven relatively cold-hardy in our region. Most grow amazingly fast. A drier site will restrain growth and likely lead to greater cold-hardiness.

Fraxinus Ornus ---Manna or Flowering Ash
    A sturdy, insect-free Mediterranean shade tree. Smooth beech-like bark, cream-white May/June flowers. Buy seedless clones or you may end up with weedy seedlings. Fall color varies greatly.

Koelreuteria paniculata ---Golden Rain Tree
    Shrimp-pink new growth in spring, profuse small yellow flowers in summer, fair Chinese lantern seedpods in autumn.

Lagerstrœmia indica ---Crape Myrtle
    Cold hardy, and mildew-free, with lovely smooth-barked trunks. It needs a warm site to flower fully, such as against a heat-radiating wall. There are white-, pink- and red-flowered selections, as well as dwarf varieties.

Malus 'Adirondack'/'Prairifire'/'Professor Sprenger'/'Red Jewel' ---Crabapple
    Small colorful trees with pretty flowers and fruits; they are relatively disease-free. These four are but a few of the worthwhile ones. Good substitutes for problem-prone flowering cherries.

Morus nigra ---Black Mulberry
    Exceedingly rare in Seattle. A very small tree, often crooked. Fruit is utterly scrumptious; an unbelievable delicacy way superior to the white mulberries and their hybrids that one sees often in Seattle. Leaves are dark green, rounded, and fuzzy.

Nyssa sylvatica ---Tupelo; Black Gum
    Best shade tree for red fall color; tolerates wet sites or average dry ones. Foliage fine and glossy.

Olea europæa ---Olive
    Olive trees can not be expected to ripen fruit in Seattle, but they're worth planting in warm sunny sites for their ornamental appeal. You might have seen them in California, Arizona, or in Mediterranean countries.

Pinus Montezumæ ---Montezuma Pine
    From Mexico. Extremely rare. Looks like Ponderosa Pine but is less dense, with more flamboyant needles. Not for colder sites.

Pistacia chinensis ---Chinese Pistachio
    Like a long-lived, stronger sumach. Fruits (borne only by female trees) are tiny inedible berries. Heat-loving. Excellent fall color.

Quercus Garryana ---Oregon White Oak
    Our only native oak is noble, handsome, rugged and brittle. Its dark green foliage contrasts pleasingly with its pale ashy bark.

Sambucus cerulea ---Blue Elder
    Powder-blue, edible berries on an arching giant shrub that can be pruned to tree form. Native in Seattle but outnumbered hugely by its red-berried, shrubbier cousin.

Tilia tomentosa ---Silver Linden
    Immense rounded shade tree with aphid-free, drought-tolerant foliage. Sweet flowers in summer.

Trachycarpus Fortunei ---Palm
    Other cold-hardy palms are also worth planting here; they all appreciate irrigation and fertilizing.

Tsuga Mertensiana ---Mountain Hemlock
    Washington's finest coniferous evergreen landscape tree for average gardens. It will not grow awkwardly large like so many others.

(originally published in the Fall 2004 PlantAmnesty newsletter; pages 2 and 3)


Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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