It’s a beautiful tree but not the best choice for landscapes in many
parts of the USA. However, there are good alternatives to the English
QUESTION: “We have about 5, very beautiful, English oaks where I work.
look like they're related to the White Oaks, and appear to be doing
well here in Philly...why aren't English Oaks more numerous?” – Scott
ANSWER: English oaks are beautiful trees that, despite their name, are
not strictly English as they are also native to much of Europe and
also northern Africa and western Asia.
The foliage of an English oak is similar to that of the more familiar
White oak but lacks the eye-catching reddish leaf color in fall. You
can sometimes spot English oaks in urban landscapes, reaching a height
of around 50 feet with a 50 foot spread.
Botanists have been using the English oak as genetic stock to generate
hybrids with other members of the White Oak group as they can be very
useful landscape shade trees.
Although it is not an American native, English oak adapts to the
sometimes challenging conditions of the eastern and midwestern United
States. It is at its best in zones 5 and 6 and doesn’t thrive in the
hot dry summers of the South. It seems to do okay in moderately dry,
poor quality soil, but prefers moist, well-drained, moderately rich
soils of variable pH.
Problems? The main potential problem is powdery mildew, something it
shares with its cousin White Swamp oak. Powdery mildew can form on its
foliage around mid-summer, but is considered a ‘cosmetic’ disease that
does not adversely affect the overall health of the tree.
I believe that English oaks are not too numerous due to the simple law
of supply and demand. Nurseries grow and sell what people are buying
in the greatest quantities. Low demand means fewer English oaks are
being grown at the nursery level.
There are a number of hardy and attractive oaks that are fast-growing
and fairly easy to care for. I’ll devote a column quite soon to some
of these varieties such as Water Oak, Sawtooth Oak, Cherrybark Oak and
the ever-popular Trailing Periwinkle need? Is it easy maintenance? If
planted on a slope, would I need to plant them high and let them trail
down or low and high and let them fill in? I am in Huntsville, AL. How
will they do in whatever zone that might be?” – Alex Haynes
ANSWER: The Huntsville, AL area borders zones 7 and 8. Vinca will grow
in that region and is recommended for USDA zones 3 through 8. You’ll
be pleased to know that, as with most groundcovers, Vinca minor
(Trailing Periwinkle) requires minimal maintenance.
After fall planting, average watering will run every 3 to 5 days for
the first 6 or so weeks depending on local rainfall, soil type and the
planting location. Since you are planting on a hillside or slope, it
will vary even more. You will need to check the soil and adjust the
water schedule accordingly.
For a slope, I recommend setting up a sprinkler attachment to a hose
for a soft spray to moisten the soil. Otherwise, most quick waterings
and rainfall typically runs off without soaking into the soil.
Until the plants securely root in, you may need to place a light layer
of straw over the area during periods of heavy rainfall to prevent the
plants from being washed downhill.
Vinca grows and roots wherever the new growth touches the soil.
Spacing can vary from 6 inches to 18 inches apart over the entire
area. The closer the plants are spaced, the quicker the area will fill
Vinca minor is an excellent evergreen ground cover for full sun,
shaded and semi-shaded areas. It has dark green oval-shaped foliage
and conspicuous blue flowers in early spring.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org