These "shady characters" keep you cool and save some green

The Plant Man column for publication week of 01/29/06 - 02/04/06 (642 words) ###
The Plant Man by Steve Jones
These "shady characters" keep you cool and save some green
Trees keep you cooler and reduce energy bills. And besides... trees are a beautiful part of your landscape!
Last week in this column, I described the Urban Heat Island Effect and what you and I can do to counteract it. Today, I will describe some ideal trees that will add beauty to your home and reduce the number of dollar bills flying out your wallet.
If you still need convincing that trees = lower temperatures, just ask NASA. Using aerial surveillance, they measured the temperatures in many locations across America. In one example, they looked at the Madison Square Mall in Huntsville, AL. In wooded areas surrounding the mall, the temperature was about 85 F, while the temperature of the blacktopped parking lot was a steamy 119.8 F. However, a "tree island", a small planter containing a couple of trees in the parking lot was only 88.8F. So, even a small area of tree coverage surrounded by a very hot parking lot reduced temperatures by a significant 31F.
So you don't need a forest to make a difference. You can find the full report at NASA's Web site and you can click on a direct hot link from this column archived under the Plant Man heading at my Web site, where you can also read last week's column if you missed it.
Not only can trees provide shade for your home, but thoughtfully planned trees can also shade driveways, parking area and garage roofs that would otherwise become "heat radiators."
Which trees should you choose? Pick the wrong trees and you've created a long-term problem. You need to look at the height and spread of any tree you're considering and also be aware of any overhead or underground utilities.
Here are a few quick suggestions, but as they say in TV commercials, "Your results may vary," so I invite you to send a few details to and I'll offer some personal advice.
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) A great choice for large lawn areas, and you'll often see it on golf courses. A slow grower, it'll reach 75 - 100 ft and prefers well drained, moderately moist fertile soil.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) It's hard to go wrong with this beauty, one of the most famous shade trees. Breathtaking crimson fall color! A good choice if your needs run to a smaller tree as this one tops out at around 30 - 50 ft.
Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsyulvanica) If you need a faster grower, the Green Ash might be a good choice. It has moderate water requirements and tolerates salt and alkali soils, with a mature height between 50 and 75 ft.
White Oak (Quercus alba) Be advised that these guys are massive, often soaring up to 140 ft. They are an investment that'll be there for future generations to enjoy. The name comes from the whitish bark and grey-white branches.
Red Baron Willow hybrid Can't wait? The Red Baron is one of the fastest-growing trees you can find, shooting up about 6 ft a year to a maximum height of around 70 ft. It's not easy to find, so search Google, or contact me via e-mail.
One last "off the wall" idea...
Bald Cypress Peve Minaret Okay, it's not a shade tree (topping out at around 8 ft) but an unusual and beautiful way to accent your landscape. The dense branching will highlight the entrance to a secret garden or around your foundation. Hard to find but worth it, so contact me if you can't locate it!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, go to
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