My son brings home “artwork” from preschool nearly every day.  There aren’t enough refrigerators in Bettendorf to hold all his masterpieces.  Of course, this week’s art was perfectly themed to go with Earth Day and Arbor Day.

These are not commercially significant holidays but when my son shows me a lovingly colored picture of a tree, I certainly think that just maybe these are the holidays we should be observing at school and at home with our families. 

Greener living has not shortage of ideas, and if your children’s crayon creations aren’t enough to inspire you to plant a tree, remember the health benefits like less pollution and more oxygen in the air and reduced stress.  Trees around buildings lower energy bills and increase property values.  The bottom line is that trees are cool.

Ash and maple tend to dominate the Midwest landscape but a variety of trees creates lasting beauty and interest, especially with the recent problems with the emerald ash borer. Plant one of these unique and underused trees to create a statement in your yard.

1) Ginkgo ‘Autumn Gold’- Slow-growing with distinctive, fan-shaped leaves, the Ginkgo, also known as maidenhair tree, is moderately sized, very insect and disease resistant with breath-taking golden yellow fall color.  

2) Tulip Tree ‘Emerald City’- An ideal parkway tree, this variety is tall and narrow with dark, glossy green foliage, orange-yellow fall color and striking tulip-like flowers in late spring.

3) Birch ‘Royal Frost’- This white barked Birch has the same upright habit and graceful movement as river birch but boasts a rich purple foliage color from spring through fall. 

Whichever you choose, all trees share a similar set of planting instructions that are as easy as ABC. 

a) Dig a hole three times as wide as the root ball and equally as deep.  

b) Mix compost with the back-fill soil, remove the tree’s container and gently set the tree in the hole.

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c) Hold the tree straight as you fill in the hole around the tree with the compost/soil mixture. Take care not to plant too deep, which could create issues later.

d) Once the hole is filled, water the tree thoroughly and mulch around the trunk with a two to three inch layer of mulch.

e) Apply a root stimulator fertilizer to encourage root growth and reduce transplant shock.

f) Continue to water once per week (with at least one inch of water) through the first season.

This past week’s Earth Day and Arbor day holidays are reason enough to plant a tree, but my hope is that next year that crayon drawing not only shows a new tree in the backyard, but the stick-figure family that planted it together.  

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