Trees are perennials when grown in the right climactic zone. They are the largest and oldest livings on our planet!
Trees & Shrubs
Selecting Trees & Shrubs
Buying a tree is very personal decision. There’s no “one size fits all”. Start by thinking about your “why” and then narrow your search down to what will thrive in your space.
Aesthetic & Purpose
What kind of shape, size, fragrance, or colour are you looking for? Are you looking to harvest fruit, enjoy flowers, or benefit from the shade? Do you require a tree for wind block, shade, or privacy?
Spacing & Exposure
Understand what kind of weather your new plant will be exposed to, including amount of sunlight. You’ll also need to know how much space your looking to fill. What’s your maximum height and width? Also be aware of the proximity to the house. Some willows are actually banned in Calgary because their roots will seek and wrap around watermains!
Long Term Thinking
Keep in mind the potential of mess, like fruit off an apple tree. Look out for the other plants in your yard because a tree will shade areas that used to receive full sun. Also keep in mind the potential for seasonal interest. Some shrubs provide beautiful autumn colour, and some trees provide fragrance in spring!
Deciduous VS Conifer
Basically broad leaf vs needle foliage. With a deciduous, you’ll be leaves until they change colour and drop in the fall. These trees and shrubs can produce flowers and fruit. With a conifer, you can expect a consistent look all year round. Conifers also produce cones! If you live in Alberta, you may already be aware of the Larch Tree. This northern tree is a deciduous conifer! This means their “needles” are actually leaves that turn colour and drop in the fall. They are soft and suited for harsh climates like our zone 3.
- Larch Trees | SHOP
TIP: Try Hawthorn if you’re looking for a large deciduous tree that’ll provide lots of shade and promote pollinators and biodiversity! SHOP HERE
TIP: Cedar is a great tree, but tough to keep in places like Calgary. They’re too tender! You may have luck with cedar if you make sure it’s not in an exposed area, receives lots of water, sufficient fertilizer, and crossed fingers! SHOP HERE
Planting Trees & Shrubs
How to Plant
- Dig a hole slightly bigger than the rootball/pot, and deep enough that the crown is at soil level.
- Loosen soil at the bottom of the hole.
- Gently remove tree from the pot and place in hole upright.
- Backfill with: 50/50 OR 70/30 blend of original soil with a soil amendment. Use one or a create a rough mix of the following:
- Water heavily after planting, and then every day for a couple weeks to help roots establish.
See our printable ‘Evergreen Planting & Care Guide’ for more information on tree planting and care | LINK
See this GAKidsTV video where Colin demonstrates how to plant a tree | LINK
Waking Existing Trees & Shrubs in Spring
As days get longer and warmer, our trees and shrubs start thawing. Roots begin to thaw and search for water. As buds break, photosynthesis can begin and we get active growth. Make sure to start watering your trees.
We had a question during the webinar about partial bud break on a Poplar tree. If you see only a portion of your tree , then one side may have received more water than the other. Install a soaker hose to give it more water. Consider a 30-10-10 fertilizer to accelerate the process. Don’t prune!
Inspecting and Pruning
Inspect your trees and shrubs and determine if it needs some pruning.
- Dead: prune visibility dead branches that aren’t undergoing active growth.
- Diseased: prune diseased branches and ensure the effected branches are disposed of and tools are cleaned to avoid spread.
- Damaged: prune bent branches and those that may have sustained damage over the winter.
- Dangerous: prune any branches that are blocking pathways, damaging property, etc.
- Desireable: prune to a desirable shape.
Make sure to follow correct pruning methods. Please see Colin’s diagram on the PowerPoint (resource section below) for information on Jump Cuts & Collar Cuts.
- Pruning Tools | SHOP
Practice caution if you decide to prune on your own and always call in an arborist if you’re in doubt. We spoke with an arborist on the Helpful Gardeners Podcast. Listen to that episode here | LINK
Suckers are growths that appear from the tree root systems. They appear when the tree has taken damage, was pruned incorrectly, or a tree was cut down. Don’t prune in the spring/summer. You’ll encourage more suckers, like a hydra! Wait until the tree has gone into dormancy (the fall) to remove them. You’ll trick the DNA and over the years, you’ll see less and less.
It’s a good idea to apply controls as early as possible. If you had a problem last year, get a jump on it this year. Problems don’t go away on their own. Some issues, like scale, need to be controlled before bud bread because those pests develop a hard shell that make it nearly impossible to control later in the season. Make sure not to apply product to flowers. Prevention is always easier than treatment.
Note: if you’re treating a fruit tree or shrub, make sure the control product is suitable.
I loved what colin said about weeds today. He doesn’t consider plants to be weeds, but moreso the location. So, a dandelion in your lawn, acceptable if that’s what you’re going for, but if there’s a dandelion next to your tomato, it’s needs to be removed. Weeds can rob moisture and nutrients from your garden and make it harder to avoid problems like fungus.
- Small Trowel | SHOP
Amending the Soil
For trees and shrubs that are 30 years old, you don’t need to do this because the roots are so deep. If you have a tree that’s up to 10 years old, then consider doing this yearly. This is especially important for flower and fruit trees because it takes a looooot energy to produce them.
Gently cultivate the top inch around the tree. If you have delicate roots sitting on top of the soil, then just lay amendments on top of the soil and water it in so the nutrients can trickle down to the roots.
More information on Soil Amendments | LINK
Could benefit mature trees but more important for the younger trees. Fertilizer promotes leaf growth, roots, flower/fruit development, and new growth. Strong trees and shrubs can fight off trouble easier. Start fertilizing the moment you start to see leaves emerging.
- Root Starter | Great for new plantings to establish roots | SHOP
- Water Soluable, All Purpose | SHOP
- Fertilizer Spikes | Set it and forget it. Great if you don’t have a lot of time to spend out there fertilizing | SHOP
- Rose Fertilizer | SHOP
- Fruit & Berry | SHOP
- MYKE | Used in the hole when planting to establish roots | SHOP
For more mature trees, fertilizer a couple times a growing season. For new trees, follow manufacturer directions. It varies depending on if you’re using a fertilizer spike or water soluble options.
There are so many benefits to mulching new trees! It can help to regulate temperature and retain moisture, prevent weeds, amend soil, and can really add to the overall look of the tree. You only need a couple inches and create a crater, not a volcano when mulching to allow tree to breathe. There’s a great diagram on Colin’s PowerPoint (Resource section below)
- Cedar | SHOP
- Redbrick | SHOP
- Chocolate | SHOP
- Rocky Mountain | SHOP
- Charcoal | SHOP
- Bulk Mulch | SHOP
More important for new trees. Oscillating sprinklers are great for lawns and garden beds, but you need a more direct approach. Trickle watering is better than rapid flooding. You don’t need to water at the stem either. Water at the drip line! See the diagram on Colin’s PowerPoint (Resource section below)
use the following tools:
More Detailed PowerPoint Presentation | GA Webinar – Trees & Shrubs
Encore Webinar Video | CLICK HERE
Our Podcast | The Helpful Gardeners Podcast (New Episodes Sunday 8am MT)
Planter Design Special – Mother’s Day | May 13, 2023 , 2023