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Our Favourite Trees to Plant This Arbor Day!

April 26, 2021
Written by Aaron

Arbor Day is one of the best days of the year to plant a tree in your yard! In Ontario, Arbor Day is the last Friday in April, so it’s the 30th of this month. 

Whether you have a small backyard or plenty of space, there are bound to be some trees that will be best suited to your yard. Here are a particular few that we love.

mountain ash tree

American mountain ash (Sorbus americana)

Height: Up to 10 metres

Width: Up to 4 metres

Shape: Oval

Needs: These trees are best suited for consistently moist soils but are surprisingly drought-tolerant; they can take some shade and are adaptable to a variety of soils.

Colour: Green leaves, reddish-orange berries, yellow to red leaves in fall.

Pretty flowers followed by large clusters of bright orange-red berries. Leaves have 13-17 small leaflets with sawtooth edges. The berries persist into winter and are popular with birds. If grown in very rocky and dry ground, the tree won't get as large as it would in moister, richer soils. Mountain ash grows all across North America and does well in southern Ontario.

 

Blue Beech (Carpinus caroliniana)

Height: 8 metres

Width: 6 metres

Needs: These trees will do best in moist, rich, well-drained soil, but they can tolerate seasonal flooding. It will take full shade or full sun as long as it has enough moisture.

Colour: Blue-ish green leaves in summer, turn reddish-orange or yellow in fall.

They are also known as American hornbeam or musclewood. Blue beech is an excellent small shade tree, adaptable to a wide variety of situations and suitable for small backyards. Blue-ish grayish bark is smooth, and the trunk can be fluted or defined, like muscles. Blue beech is common around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

eastern flowering dogwood

Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Height: 10 metres

Width: 3 metres 

Needs: These trees prefer consistently moist sites and slightly acidic soil; they prefer light shade but can tolerate full sun if with plenty of moisture.

Colours: White flower-like bracts in spring, red leaves in fall, bright red fruit.

This gorgeous dogwood has large white flower-like bracts in the spring before the leaves expand.  The bark is almost like alligator skin, very ornamental and beautiful. This native tree to Canada is endangered in Ontario and nationally. Contact the local Ministry of Natural Resources Species-at-risk Biologist if you want to plant this tree as part of the recovery strategy.

 

Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana)

Height: 24 metres

Width: 6 metres

Needs: These are pretty tolerant trees but prefer dryer soil, grow best in coarse soils and full sun. 

Colours: Light green needles grow in bundles that are slightly curved and twisted, cones are yellowish-brown.

Jack pine is the most widely distributed tree in Canada. It grows almost anywhere, from permafrost to shallow soil on mountains. They grow into unique gnarled and sometimes lopsided shapes in very rocky soil, most famously seen in Tom Thomson paintings. 

sugar maple tree

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Height: 35 metres

Width: 12 metres

Needs: These trees prefer deep, rich, moist soil. Full sun is best, but can tolerate some shade. 

Colours: Yellowish-green leaves in summer, yellow, bright orange, or red in fall. Gray bark, brown seed pods.

By far the most patriotic tree on this list, sugar maples offer some of the best fall colour around—plus, you can tap some genuine Canadian maple syrup in your own yard! 

These maples can live for more than 200 years and are the national tree of Canada. You'll need about 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup. A mature tree can produce 30-50 litres of sap, but generally, you shouldn’t tap them until they're 30-40 years old. Sugar maples grow well across central and southern Ontario. 

 

Tamarack (Larix laricina)

Height: 20 metres

Width: 9 metres

Needs: These trees are very tolerant of soil and moisture levels but will do best in full sun.

Colours: Grayish-brown bark, bluish-green needles in spring/summer, turn yellow in the fall.

Tamaracks are a deciduous conifer–they drop their needles in the fall and put out new ones in spring. These gorgeous Canadian natives are popular with photographers because they light up coniferous forests with vibrant yellow tones in the fall. It has an excellent balanced conical shape. 

white spruce tree

White Spruce (Picea glauca)

Height: 24 metres

Width: 3 metres

Needs: These trees are tolerant of almost any soil, wide range of moisture levels, and will do best with full sun, though they can tolerate some shade. 

Colours: Blueish green needles with a way layer on top, light brown cones

White spruce is one of the best evergreens to use as a Christmas tree, and they thrive in our Southern Ontario climate. While they’re certainly not small trees, planting one in your front or backyard guarantees four-season interest, including a built-in holiday feature that looks incredible in winter when covered in string lights. When young, these trees may be susceptible to frost damage, and deer find them tasty, so they should be protected until well established.

Still hunting for the perfect tree to plant this Arbor Day? Visit our plant nursery in Simcoe soon to browse our full selection!

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