UNITED STATES—Few trees that inhabit home gardens begin their residency as nature intended them to. Most are exotic, from other ecosystems, regions and climates. Almost all initially grew in nurseries, with their roots confined to cans of soilless media. Most rely on pruning and binding to develop straight and tall trunks. In the garden, most rely on stakes for stability.
Nursery stakes are different from landscape stakes. They support the developing trunks of young trees as they grow in nurseries. They can do the same for very young trees that grow directly into home gardens. Such stakes do not stabilize trees. Within confinement of nursery cans, they cannot extend into the soil below. They guide trunk development.
Some young trees with very limber trunks rely on constrictive binding to nursery stakes. Most trees need only loose binding. Ideally, binding should be as loose as possible, and is only temporary. Trunks that move with wind are less reliant on support as they mature. Once straight trunks develop, temporary nursery stakes should no longer be necessary.
Different types of stakes assist with development of trunks and roots.
Landscape stakes stabilize new trees after installation into a garden. Most of such trees lack stability while their roots are initially very confined. Root dispersion stabilizes trees as they mature. Landscape stakes are only temporary during this process. They should not be so constraining that trees rely on them for support. They must be sturdy though.
As important as it is for many trees, staking can interfere with trunk development. It limits motion from wind that stimulates trunk expansion and root dispersion. Timely removal of stakes when no longer needed promotes healthier development. Yet, some very limber trees may briefly need both nursery and landscape stakes. Timing of removal is critical.
Small trees may need only a single landscape stake after installation. Larger trees may need a pair of stakes. Some stout trees may need no stake at all. Ties that loosely attach trees to stakes should cross over between the trees and stakes. This forms a figure eight pattern that limits abrasion between trees and stakes. Short nails can hold ties in place.
Highlight: Lemon Cypress
Monterey cypress is a famously rugged tree that inhabits harshly exposed coastal cliffs. It grows fast to get big and gnarly with age. Lemon cypress, Hesperocyparis macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest,’ is a more civilized cultivar. It might potentially grow nearly 40 feet tall, but at less than a foot annually. Vertical trunks support compact and relatively columnar form.
Lemon cypress foliage is densely evergreen, with tiny and tightly set scale leaves. New spring growth is impressively cheery yellow. It fades somewhat to yellowish chartreuse through summer. If the weather gets cool enough through winter, the foliage can get a bit more amber. The foliar aroma is coincidentally slightly lemony, to match the foliar color.
Once established, lemon cypress does not require much more than occasional pruning. It is satisfied with only infrequent irrigation, and might survive with none at all. Actually, it is susceptible to rot with generous or frequent irrigation. ‘Goldcrest Wilma’ is susceptible to foliar diseases within its even denser foliage. It stays compact enough for pots though.
(Incidentally, Hesperocyparis was formerly Cupressus.)
Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.