Trees bring home beauty, endurance and value

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A tree is one of the most important garden investments a homeowner can make. It adds value to the property, beauty to the yard, energy efficiency to the home, and protection for a variety of critters.

Veteran grower Wally Mundy, in the landscaping business since 1971 and tree farming since 1979, said a tree can add 10 to 15 percent to a home’s value in addition to years of passive enjoyment.

A homeowner invests in its growth and long life, and it pays it back by becoming an attractive fixture in the home’s curb appeal — as well as resale value — and a component of its energy savings.

For example, Mundy said shade trees that block the hot sun during summer but allow it through when they lose their leaves help save on household cooling and heating costs. Some, like evergreens, block the wind that creeps into the home during winter, and make a natural snow fence along the driveway or by the porch or patio. They also provide winter havens for squirrels, rabbits and non-migrating birds.

Aesthetics are just as important, Mundy said. A tree can be a stand-alone feature, or it can be part of a landscape plan. One plan that seems popular, he said, is a copy of how nature seems to scale plants, with the tallest trees in back, gradually reducing in height and density to ground level. This can be done with the tree at the back, a mix of shrubs in the middle, and a flower layout in front.

So selection of the right tree for the right spot and the right effect is not a decision to be made lightly. Mundy, owner of Mundy Landscaping in Aurora and Ottawa Lakeside Nursery off Route 71 between Yorkville and Ottawa, suggests these steps to make the right choice:

1. Pick the spot in the yard. Define the purpose, such as shade for the patio or deck, or wind and snow blockage, or an accent at a house corner. Envision how it will look with other garden plantings to make it part of your personal landscaping plan.

2. Ensure good drainage and soil. Some trees can tolerate more moisture, but soil heavy with clay in a low spot will hold too much water. Mundy suggested a simple test: Dig a hole about 2 feet deep and 24 inches wide, pour in some buckets of water, cover and see how it drains after a day.

3. Before you dig anything, call JULIE. The Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators is a not-for-profit corporation that provides homeowners and professional excavators with one place to call for safe digging. It will tell you what’s buried in your yard, helping you avoid personal injury and damage to underground utilities. The call is free and so are the services. Call 811 or 1-800-892-0123.

4. Decide who will do the work. A tree with a trunk 2 to 3 inches in diameter might be 10 to 15 feet high, and with root ball can weigh 400 to 500 pounds. Such a tree can have a root ball 24 to 32 inches in diameter. Proper planting would require a hole 36 to 48 inches wide and 24 to 30 inches deep. That’s a lot of hauling and digging, so consider paying for delivery and planting services. A nursery can arrange or suggest someone local.

5. Shop and choose. Growers have websites, and some like Mundy’s have picture galleries with descriptions. When you have an idea what kind of tree, then visit the nursery. Ask a lot of questions about location, planting, care such as watering and pruning, and appearances through the seasons.

Then, enjoy your investment. And remember that jumping in a pile of raked leaves is free.