Selecting a Tree

People who know how to buy a car, choose a major appliance or find the perfect vacation spot sometimes feel overwhelmed when it comes to selecting a tree. 

Let’s look at how you can apply the same strategies you use in those decisions to choosing a tree.

What do you want to accomplish?

  • Shade the house or lawn?
  • Attract wildlife?
  • Provide fruit or nuts for the family?
  • Screen the yard? 
  • Enjoy great fall color?
  • A combination of the above? 

How soon do you want these qualities?

Buying a larger tree instead of a smaller one is not always the better choice. Besides costing more, most larger trees take longer to adapt to their new site.

What can you afford?

Instead of dollars, the currency for trees exists in your yard or garden – sunlight, water and space:  How many hours of sunlight? How to get water to the tree? Which spaces are safely away from structures, overhead lines and underground infrastructure? 

CAUTION: If you want to add a patio, deck or pool in a few years, don’t put a tree in that space or too close to it. Moving even a young tree is challenging and not usually good for the tree. 

When you have YOUR answers to these questions, you’re ready to start shopping for your tree.  

More tree selection info from the Richmond Tree Stewards website.

This Virginia Tech site provides several ways to search, including the common name (dogwood) and the botanical name (Cornus florida).

Arboretums and the Arbor Day Foundation also provide free information on their websites. 

Getting to Know Trees

Many of us admire trees from a distance or walk by and look up to see how big a tree is.  If you have never stopped to take a really close look you are missing something grand, especially this time of year.  Some trees, red and silver maples for example, have already flowered and are forming seed.  Sycamore still has seed pods from last year, but not for long.  Other species have buds packed with flowers and leaves just beginning to open.    The unfurling is almost magical.  When you are near a tree, stop for just a moment and take a look.

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There have been sightings of “crape murder” in Church Hill and some of the trees affected are city street trees.  While we may not always agree on proper pruning techniques for crape myrtles, pruning of city street trees is a violation of city ordinance.  Tree Policy Ordinance Section 2. Permits Required: “Citizens . . . shall not plant, prune, remove . . . or otherwise disturb any tree on any street or municipal-owned property without first filling out an application and procuring a permit . .  and approval by the city arborist”.   The application can be found at

An easier way to get help with smaller trees that require structural pruning or sidewalk and street clearance pruning is to contact the Richmond City Tree Stewards and request assistance at  A Tree Steward in your area will take care of getting the appropriate permissions and will be happy to take care of city trees at no expense to the homeowners.  Pruning projects are what Tree Stewards live for!

Tree Stewards may be able to reach some of the branches on larger trees with pole pruners but can’t tackle the really big jobs. Larger trees that require extensive pruning can be approached in one of two ways.   If there appears to be an immediate hazard to passing cars or pedestrians please notify the city arborist through the City’s RVA311 request site. However, there is a large backlog for routine maintenance of large trees, so the best approach if you want something done in a timely manner is to contact a local tree company with certified arborists and have them submit the application and perform the maintenance at your expense.

Originally published in the Church Hill News