The Perfect Tree

The couple had done their research. They wanted a tree and had come up with a list of characteristics and asked me to determine what variety would meet their criteria. They wanted it to get tall but not too tall. Fast growth was a must, but they also wanted to have branches that wouldn’t break in the wind, with flowers in the spring, and bright orange fall color. “Furthermore,” said the husband, “No bugs or fungus, and it should be long lived. Oh, we wanted to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the septic.” “Preferably white flowers,” chimed in the woman, “but no fruit.”

Since I had long been acquainted with these two, I decided to tease them a bit, “You want the perfect tree!” I exclaimed then, “Actually what you’ve described is an amalgam.” I went on to explain that really fast growing trees are more susceptible to wind breakage, that flowering trees almost invariably have fruit, and that insects and diseases have evolved right along with trees so that a totally pest free selection was not realistic. “So” I said “let’s talk about how we can break down the choices so you can make a selection.”

I then detailed that shade trees generally had large spreading canopies with branches starting at least 6’ up on the trunk so one could function under them and enjoy their shade. At the risk of giving too much information, I went on, “Ornamental trees, on the other hand, often have branches that start only two or three feet off the ground and are generally smaller growing than shade trees, reaching maybe 15-25 feet.” I should have left it right there. They choose shade or ornamental, I give them four or five choices and the deal is done. But, nooooo, I am on a roll. “Fruit trees are very pretty as well. Of course, they do get fruit.” At this point I rationalized that I may as well complete their education. “The only category I’ve left out is conifer trees, which come in a great number of shapes and sizes, and colors too, come to think of it.”

“Gosh honey,” said the woman to her husband, “I didn’t think about all the different types of trees.” “Me neither,” he responded, “let’s just get two of these Amalgam trees and call it good.” “Great!” she said, turning to me, “do they come with red leaves?”