Plant Diversity

Did you ever notice how neighbors often plant the same type of trees? Maybe not. I understand that landscape plants aren’t front of mind for most people. We have more pressing issues in our lives or so it appears. But the loss of many of our favorite landscape plants due to disease and insects becomes a more serious issue when all the trees up and down the street are the same species! Note the dying and falling ash trees of the last 2 decades. Yes, it’s been since 2002 that our ash trees have been dying. Or the slow demise of the popular Colorado Blue Spruce. Weren’t aware of this one? It’s happening. Another problem is the massive overplanting of ornamental pears. Most people don’t even give it a second thought but the spreading of weed pears is epidemic. Just take a look at the open fields around the suburbs in March and realize that all those pretty white, upright flowering trees are wild pears escaped from the neighborhoods. They get so thick in the fields that you can’t even walk through them. Several states including Ohio have even outlawed the sale and planting of ornamental pears and many other invasive species. The pear ban won’t start in Ohio until 2023 to allow nurseries to sell their inventory before the ban. Wonderful.

But my point in all this is that we should plant more diversity into our landscape. There are thousands of choices we could be planting but most people look no further than the neighbors’ to decide what to plant. It’s been said that landscape architects have a “pallet” of plants they like to use which is comprised only of about a dozen popular trees, shrubs, and perennials. Do the research. I can think of 50-100 different native and exotic trees that are suitable for planting in Central Ohio. Now part of this problem is actually the nursery industry itself. They grow what sells and push the popular. I used to sell trees for a large wholesale nursery throughout the midwest and always promoted the unusual but it was always a tough sell. We’d sell many more popular species and had to work really hard to move the uncommon but often superior trees. So you might not find the unusual trees available in the local retail store. You might need to search a little harder and maybe even start with small trees found online.

City foresters are wising up to this problem. After losing the majestic American Elms, then having pears break and fall into the streets and then spend millions of dollars cleaning up the dead ash trees, they now have a policy of limiting the percentage of a given species on the city streets and parks. It is a much bigger issue than you may think. Imagine our streets, parks, and neighborhoods without trees! We can make our environment more interesting, secure and healthy with wider diversity in plant material.

Please contact me for a comprehensive list of trees and landscape plants that work well in our Central Ohio climate.