Tree Time: Tips for Planting & How to Order Trees from City

Tree Time: Tips for Planting & How to Order Trees from City

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 27, 2017)

Ferndale, MI – Several cities in Oakland County can boast about being a “Tree City USA,” and this year Ferndale is taking it to the next level. With a goal of increasing the tree canopy from 30% to 50% the city is offering a low-cost tree planting program with a variety of trees residents can chose from.

And to help residents make good decisions and take care of their trees, the Ferndale Beautification Commission held a presentation on Saturday, featuring Robert Primeau, a landscape designer who also works with the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.


Trees provide many benefits including improving air quality, mitigating storm water by soaking it into their roots, creating habitat for birds and other animals, protecting homes from elements and increasing property values.

There are 7000 public trees in the city, which includes those in the easements between sidewalks and streets as well as those in parks or on other city property.

“If you plant evergreens,” Primeau said, “It’s like a blanket for your house in the wintertime.”  In the summer trees help block the sun, providing cooling shade.

Trees not only increase property values, they impact the feel of a community, he said.  They even can help prevent speeding in residential neighborhoods.  “When you put trees in it creates a sense of compression and slows traffic,” he said.


The City of Ferndale’s Department of Public Works (DPW) offers a variety of trees and will even plant them for residents if they put them in the area by the street.

According to DPW Director Loyd Cureton “The 2017 planting season’s cost is $125. The Department of Public Works will then purchase a replacement tree of your choice from the approved tree list and will plant it in the right-of way in front of your home, or deliver the tree for private property planting (by the property owner).

“DPW employees will plant trees in the spring and fall of each year when they are available from the nursery. Each tree is guaranteed for a period of 1 year, from the date of planting, except in cases of mechanical injury or vandalism.  Homeowners wishing to purchase a street tree in the right-of-way on their own, are reminded that the Chapter Sec. 20-22 of the Code of Ordinances provides general regulations and guidelines for anyone working in the road right-of-way with replacement trees.  These regulations pertain the permission granted by the DPW to follow specifications. Examples such as tree-to-tree spacing, tree trimming, soil materials, etc.

“Additionally, residents should be aware that trees must be planted at least 10 feet from a fire hydrant/driveway and five feet from a manhole cover.”

Other cities offer similar programs for residents.  To learn more look on your city’s website or contact the DPW or DPS.


Trees on the DPW list were selected not only for their appropriateness in this climate, but for their ability to soak up storm water.

Available trees are: red maple, Freeman maple, yellow buckeye, horse chestnut, common hackberry, European hornbeam, Turkish hazelnut, tulip tree, cucumber tree magnolia, bigleaf magnolia, Norway spruce, American Sycamore, Douglas Fir, American linden, littleleaf linden, bigleaf linden, silver linden, American elm, and Japanese zelkova.

Primeau presented information on other trees that work in this climate and are permitted by the city, but are not on their list for purchase.  Those included serviceberry, American red bud, witchhazel, European or American hornbeam, sweet gum or black gum, ginkgo and paw paw.


Some trees are problematic or over-planted. Primeau gave some examples:

Flowering pear is invasive and has weak wood, plus they only live 15-20 years.

Willows have strong roots that will crack foundations of homes.

Norway and Silver Maples also have weak wood and they grow very fast.

Red Maple is acceptable, but over-used.  Primeau recommends using diverse kinds of trees in case disease come along in the future.  Emerald Ash and Oaks have died in mass numbers due to diseases, and if anything were to impact Red Maples there would be many trees lost as well.


The biggest mistake people make while planting trees is planting them too deep or building mounds around the trunk.  If a trunk is below ground it will rot.  “Look for the root flair and make sure that is exposed,” he said.

Primeau also recommended that people keep staking to a minimum.  “I don’t like to stake the trees.  The wind will help train the tree to be strong and resistant to the wind,” he said.

Pruning is also important to understand. Most trees have a “central leader” that comes from the trunk.  If the central leader is pruned it can branch off into two or more central leaders, impacting the appearance of the tree.

As far as fertilizer, Primeau recommended letting the tree grow without fertilizer since salts can damage it over time, and because “that tree is going to be there a long time and you may not always be there to take care of it.  Let it grow naturally so it is used to the soil where it is.”  If fertilizer is needed when the tree is young, he recommends using worm casings.

Learn more about the Ferndale Beautification Commission at

To contact the Ferndale DPW about ordering a tree, call  248-546-2514.  For other cities check your city website or DPW/DPS.

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