Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Trees

2016 Urban Tree of the Year

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Its narrow upright habit makes ‘Musashino’ zelkova a good choice for urban streets. Photo courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

Zelkova serrata ‘Musashino’ has been voted the 2016 Urban Tree of the Year by the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA).

To win the award, the selected tree must be adaptable to harsh urban growing conditions and have strong ornamental traits. That is certainly the case with the ‘Musashino’ zelkova.

It’s an extra-hardy, upright-growing, highly symmetrical selection of the Japanese zelkova (Z. serrata). It was first selected in Japan and named after the town Musashino where it was found. It can reach up to 45 feet (14 m) in height and 15 feet (4.6 m) in width at maturity with medium green leaves in the summer while fall colors range from yellow bronze to red, depending on the growing conditions. It has proved to be hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9 (AgCan zones 6 to 9).

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Fall color is variable, but attractive. Photo courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

This is one tough tree and it adapts well to urban conditions, tolerating air pollution and salt spray. Although it prefers moist, well-drained soil, it is drought resistant once established, pH adaptable, and more heat tolerant than most zelkovas. The smaller than usual leaves (only 3 inches/7.5 cm de length) reduce the need for raking in the fall.

Musashino zelkova was introduced by J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. and is available through nurseries that habitually carry Schmidt trees.

Past Winners

Here is a list of past winners of the Urban Tree of the Year award:

  • 2015 Yellowwood (Cladastris kentuckea)
  • 2014 ‘Vanessa’ Parrotia (Parrotia persica ‘Vanessa’)
  • 2013 Live oak (Quercus virginiana)
  • 2012 Accolade™ elm (Ulmus x ‘Morton’)
  • 2011 Goldenraintree (Koelreuteria paniculata)
  • 2010 Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
  • 2009 Chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)
  • 2008 Black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)
  • 2007 Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum)
  • 2006 Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)
  • 2005 ‘Chanticleer’ Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’)
  • 2004 Autumn Blaze™ Maple (Acer × freemanii ‘Jeffersred’)
  • 2003 Allee™ Lacebark Elm (Ulmus parvifolia ‘Emer II’)
  • 2002 Heritage™ River Birch (Betula nigra ‘Cully’)
  • 2001 Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
  • 2000 ‘Redmond’ Linden (Tilia americana ‘Redmond’)
  • 1999 Skyline™ Honeylocust’ (Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Skycole’)
  • 1998 Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)
  • 1997 ‘Ivory Silk’ Japanese Lilac (Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’)
  • 1996 ‘Princeton Sentry’ Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba ‘Princeton Sentry’)20161022aenglish

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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