Help me choose a tree for our backyard.

(Question)

Our backyard backs onto a laneway which is next to a gas station and then a busy street.  We have a standard wooden fence to block some of the view but since it is a gas station we can still see the upper lights quite easily.  We would like to plant a tree that will eventually block out some of the remaining view of the gas station above the fence.

Ideally this tree would be a fairly quick grower but would not end up with the branches starting so far up that they don’t block anything just above the fence (e.g like a big oak tree).  Maybe a smaller tree would be appropriate?  That would also help to avoid the entire yard ending up in shade which we don’t want as this is a full sun area.

We do not want to use coniferous trees – we would much prefer to use a deciduous tree.  We already have a much loved lilac at the other end of the yard.  Happy to consider flowering trees or others.

Any recommendations?

 

(Answer)

I like your idea of planting a tree to block out the lights from the neighbouring gas station.  Here are a number of suggestions all of which should be easily found in local nurseries, tolerate a Toronto winter and will thrive in the sun of your backyard:

Chanticleer Pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’)

A narrow form of the species.  Fairly rapid growth.  White flowers in spring cover the tree.  Good yellow to red fall colour.

Height: 25’ (7.5m) Spread: 20’ (6m)

Maidenhair tree or gingko (Gingko biloba)

The upright habit of the gingko plus its good pollution tolerance make it s good choice for urban gardens.  The cultivar ‘Princeton Sentry’ has a more columnar form.  Good yellow fall colour and a distinctive leaf shape.  Note that male and female flowers are on separate trees and the fruit on female trees has a bad odour as it rots.  Most of the named varieties such as ‘Princeton Sentry’ are male clones so avoid this problem.  It grows slowly for the first 3-4 years and then quite quickly.

Height: 50’ (15m) Spread: 30’ (9m)

Upright English Oak (Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’)

You specifically mentioned that a big oak would not be suitable but this English oak cultivar is worth considering.  It is as tall as the species but only 15’ (4.5m) wide (as opposed to 60’ (18m) for the species.  Look for a specimen with the most upright branches.  It grows moderately fast

Are you familiar with the Backyard Tree Planting Program offered by the LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) organization?   This not-for profit community organization offers native trees and shrubs to homeowners at a subsidized cost and their arborists will assist in helping you make the best decision about the best tree for your property.  I took a look at the list of native trees they can provide and one for you to take a look at is:

Freeman Maple (Acer freemanii)

This tree is a cross between a silver maple and a red maple.  It has an upright form and good branching habit which makes it suitable for city gardens.  It gets its good form and outstanding fall colour from the red maple and fast growth and tolerance to adverse climate and soil conditions from the silver maple.

Height: 40’ (12m) Spread: 20’ (6m)

I’ve included a link to the LEAF organization below:

https://www.yourleaf.org