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September/October 2012 Issue

What are the best trees for the tough, dry parts of my yard?

Jeff Schulz, owner, The Hidden Gardens, Willowbrook

Wayne A. Gruber, owner, Gardens on the Prairie,
Lowell, Ind.

For large shade trees I would choose English oak (Quercus robur), beech (Fagus) and Ginkgo biloba. For ornamentals I recommend Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata), ornamental pears (Pyrus ‘Chanticleer’ or ‘Aristocrat’) and paperbark maple (Acer griseum). These trees are drought tolerant once established. An important consideration is that it may take three to four years for them to become established, and they will need proper watering until then.

The ginkgo (male) retained turgid leaves and good green color this summer. The upright narrow Regal Prince® oak made a noble stand of deep green foliage and sacrificed just a few leaves to the drought. The seedless and thornless honeylocust is an old standby that’s never too exciting but just seems to have amazing survival adaptations. Finally, nice existing green and white ash are worth protecting from emerald ash borer (EAB) due to their versatility in harsh conditions. Just don’t plant new ash trees because of EAB. And remember, trees need water.

John Heaton, owner, Knupper Nursery, Palatine



Many established plants are going to be dying now or within a few years. That’s why my choice is Red Sunset® maple (Acer rubrum ‘Franksred’). First, it has been around since 1966 and has stood the test of time. Second, the orange and red fall color comes early
in the fall so we get to enjoy it before the weather is too cold. Third, it gives a lot of cooling summer shade. Fourth, it’s fast-growing. Finally, it’s very easy to grow.



Ask our Experts Previous Issues
Previous Ask our Experts Questions:
July/August 2008 What plants do you recommend for drought tolerance?
May/June 2008 What do you recommend to customers who want instant curb appeal in their gardens?
March/April 2008 What are the most common questions your customers ask in spring?
January/ February 2008 What ornamental grasses would you recommend for winter interest?
November/December 2007 What natural materials would you recommend for holiday decorating?
September/October 2007 What were your hot sellers this year and what do you expect to be popular next year?
July/August 2007 The early summer blooms of peonies, roses and iris has ended and my garden is in the doldrums. What can I do now to perk things up?
May/June 2007 What is the one "must have" this spring for a hanging basket?
March/April 2007 What do you tell people who complain about non-blooming lilacs?
November/December 2006 What is your favorite tree or shrub for winter interest?
September/October 2006 What is your favorite tree or shrub for fall color?
July/August 2006 What should tomato growers be doing this month and next to get maximum tomato production?
May/June 2006 In your opinion, what's the most common mistake novice gardeners make?
March/April 2006 What’s one plant that Chicagoland gardeners should grow more often and why?