CO-Horts Blog

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hort Peeves: Tree Edition

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

I'm starting a new installment called "Hort Peeves"--things that you see in landscapes that simply don't make sense and drive a horticulturist crazy.

There's a lot of construction near my office and dozens of apartment buildings have been built in the last 12 months (mostly student housing for fellow Rams). It's been an experience watching the building process...and more recently...the landscaping process.

But I cannot stay silent about the trees they planted. First of all, they are inferior quality, with crooked trunks, no defined central leader and poor branching.

Second...these are COTTONWOODS (specifically Populus fremontii; the western cottonwood). Like, freakin' enormous, huge cottonwoods. And look where they are planted! Less than 10 feet from the apartments.
A cottonwood for each front yard!
Oh, and what's even better is that the mature size for these trees is 50' wide by 50' tall.
At least they are hardy to Colorado's climate.
Maybe the builders/landscapers don't bank on these trees surviving to maturity? My guess is they probably don't. But that's another peeve--we should plant trees for the tree's life--not to fit into our personal timeline or the maintenance contract. I fear these trees (at least the ones that survive) will have to be removed in a few years, because cottonwoods tend to grow quickly and they are going to outgrow their space soon. This is where the "right plant, right place" rule of thumb becomes so important.

Sigh. Poor trees. "I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues." (The Lorax by Dr. Seuss)


  1. I feel your pain. Our new-to-us house has a blue spruce within five (5!) feet of the house corner. Just four feet away, the developer planted a linden that's fighting for space. In the front yard are 3 crab apples (monoculture) and six more pine trees of different sorts, including another blue spruce. Bad feng shui. It looks like a silent battleground of wanna-be giants. Across the street are two obviously dead crab apple trees the neighbor has not cut down. "Do you think they are really dead?" she said. Sigh...

  2. Amen! Most of the trees planted in our (then) new subdivision in the late 90's were all split-trunks, red or silver maples (our pH is almost 8.0) and lots of sub-standard ash trees. Most, if not all, have succumbed to snow loads, chlorosis and lilac-ash borer. My wish is that builders would work with horticulture professionals to develop truly nice and long-lived landscapes. It's sad to see residential landscapes not grow into the mature, beautiful landscapes they should be designed to become.