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Ask A Specialist: Which Trees Grow Well In Parking Strips?

Wednesday, Aug. 08, 2007

August 9, 2007

Answer by: Jerry Goodspeed, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, Weber County
When planting a tree in a parking strip, there are several factors to consider. First, look up. Many parking strips are below overhead power lines that restrict or limit the height of the tree. The power lines do not stunt the tree’s growth, but owners do their trees a disservice by placing them where heavy pruning will be required for safety. It is important to plant the right tree. Planting a potentially tall tree under a power line will cause a lifetime of problems for the tree and the owner.
After looking up, the next step is to look around. Trees not only grow tall, but also wide, including around the trunk. Some trees grow more than 10 feet in diameter, which makes them much too big for a 3 or 4-foot parking strip. Their roots can also move sidewalks and driveways as well.
Although some trees are not well suited for a parking strip, others fit quite nicely and stay comfortably under power lines without outgrowing their space. Consider these trees that are well suited for parking strips.
·         The Tatarian Maple grows 15 to 20 feet high. It resembles the more popular Amur Maple with its beautiful fall color but has fewer problems with iron chlorosis. Although it can be bought as a multi-stemmed tree, it is also commonly grown with a single trunk. The red seeds add interest in the summer.
·         The Washington Hawthorn is probably the most popular hawthorn due to its ability to adapt to Utah’s soil and climatic conditions. It stays about 20 feet tall with an equal spread. It has white spring flowers and persistent fruit that hangs on the tree throughout the winter.
·         The Goldenrain Tree is interesting throughout several seasons. It looks good as it emerges in the spring, has showy golden flowers in mid-summer and produces interesting seed pods in the fall. It is not too messy and can grow to a height of 30 feet. Newer varieties that produce a red or purple-hued seedpod in the fall will soon be on the market, and a columnar variety is also available.
·         Goldenchain Trees are often confused with the Goldenrain Tree. One important difference is the Goldenchain Tree blooms in late spring, not mid-summer. It is also a smaller tree (15 to 20 feet tall) and the flowers resemble golden chains that hang from the branches. The variety ‘Vossii’ is known for its large blossoms.
·         Flowering Cherry Trees are spectacular in bloom, but they can also be prone to pests and occasional winter damage. Growing no more than about 25 feet high, they make a nice street tree if owners are aware of potential problems. Kwanzan, Mt. Fuji and Shirofugan are good varieties to consider.
·         The heritage river birch has a unique off-white colored bark that exfoliates and adds winter interest. It is normally sold and grown as a multi-stemmed tree, but can be trained and pruned to a single trunk. It was actually bred to grow in stressful urban conditions.
Other trees also fit comfortably into a parking strip or under a power line. Before planting, take the time to find out how tall and wide they will grow. Ask your local certified nurseryman for recommendations for your growing area and location.

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