Q: I am new to the Atlanta area and will be starting a garden from scratch. The lot where we are building has no trees and I need some assistance as to the best species and varieties to plant. Is there any reason why I shouldn’t plant birch trees? Also, I’ve noticed the beautiful colors of the sassafras tree but I’ve only seen it in a woodland setting. Is it a nice garden plant with a nice form and habit?
A: I am pleased to welcome you to our fair region! No matter where you are from, you=ll find that gardening in Georgia is different. Our combination of clay soil, hot summers and fluctuating temperatures in winter make plant selection a challenge. Fortunately, one birch tree grows well here. The river birch (Betula nigra) loves the sun, grows rapidly and has attractive peeling bark. Look particularly for the Heritage variety and purchase it from a grower who can guarantee that it is a real Heritage river birch. I have seen many birches being sold as Heritage which seemed to be common river birch instead.