Friday, February 9, 2018

Best Trees For Calgary; Linden

          If you're looking for a beautiful, fragrant, mess free, shade tree, Linden is for you. Sometimes called Lime tree in England and Basswood in North America Linden is an attractive pyramidal shade tree easily grown in our climate. Linden is of the genus Tilia which means heart shaped referring to the leaves.

     There are a few varieties of Linden available in our area, mainly Dropmore, above, with its huge leaves and Little-Leaf varieties, Glenlevin and Corinthian. Also some varieties developed in Manitoba especially for our prairie climate Harvest Gold, Golden Cascade, and fast growing Norlin. Most of these trees grow to about 25' to 50' tall x 20'to40' wide although in Calgary I haven't seen them much over 25' tall. There are many of these trees in Saskatoon where they grow quite large and have naturalized a little too so we know it's not cold that slows them down!

     Lindens have a fragrant tiny flower in early summer described as somewhere between honey and lemon peel, followed by tiny nut like seeds accompanied by a ribbon shaped bract a little like a Maple wing which is another attractive feature through the summer. The fragrance is attractive to both humans and bees thus making this a very valuable tree in any landscape. It is widely stated that the flowers and sometimes leaves make a pleasant tea as all parts are edible. There were many uses for this tree in the past including lumber/ carving, Bast (from which we derive Basswood) a fiber derived from the bark used for fabric and also for honey. In Europe there are claims of Lindens as old as 1000 to 2000 years old so we know these are very long lived trees.

     I don't know why there weren't many Lindens in Calgary until recently, obviously they have been growing in Saskatoon for many years in a moderately similar climate. I recall seeing my first Linden in Calgary at the Prehistoric Park that was built in the 1980's growing happily amongst the recreated rockscapes. Years later my better trained eye for dendrology spotted this Little Leaf Linden variety, above, growing in Reader's Rock Garden, the biggest drawback is that we don't know the variety or year planted or where collected from, very interesting though.

     I spotted this row of Lindens in front of St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary, they must be several decades old. Here you can see the typical straight trunk and pyramidal form excellent for streets and yards. These trees need little to no pruning are a great shade tree. Even though there are small seeds they are touted as being great for patios and decks and are very tidy and maintenance free. They should be planted in a site that is neither too wet or too dry, although this sounds "Goldilocks" I would say don't plant in a low spot or amend soil that has a lot of clay and as with most trees in Calgary water well when young.

     I'm glad the City is planting more Lindens around Calgary, the attractive leaves, fragrant flowers and beautiful shape add a lot to our landscape. Fall colour is yellow, given a long enough season of course, sometimes though the leaves do not change colour at all depending on the individual. The bare twigs are thick and dark making it attractive in the winter as well. These trees leaf out moderately early in our area and are listed as slow to moderate growth. I think they would be fine for a specimen tree in most yards and as we can see great for boulevards too. Undemanding and practically maintenance free make this one of my top recommendations.

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