NPS, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
If you love the effect of an evergreen tree and the brilliant fall color of a deciduous tree, you can have both with a larch tree. Larch (also known as Tamarack) is renowned as Ontario’s only native deciduous conifer! These needled conifers resemble evergreens in spring and summer, but in the fall the needles turn buttery yellow and drop to the ground.
Deciduous conifers are a rare find and so they are well worth planting if you have the right location. Although most are massive trees, there are a few types suited to urban garden spaces. The Weeping European Larch, for example, grows to about 6-8’ tall and only 2’ wide with lovely weeping branches held close to the trunk that give it a distinctive winter profile. The Weeping Japanese Larch is similarly on the smaller side, topping out at about 10-12’ tall.
The taller American Larch will grow to be about 50’ tall at maturity, with a spread of 20’. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 1 foot from the ground, and should not be planted underneath power lines. It grows at a slow rate and, under ideal conditions, can be expected to live for 60 years or more.
Larches are among the dominant plants in the boreal forests of Canada and thus grow well in Ottawa.
This tree does best in full sun to partial shade. It is quite adaptable, preferring to grow in average to wet conditions, and will even tolerate some standing water. It is not particular as to soil type, but has a definite preference for acidic soils. It is quite intolerant of urban pollution, so streetside plantings are best avoided.
About the Author:
Patricia is a long-time resident of the Alta Vista area of Ottawa with 30+ years of gardening experience. If you’d like to share your thoughts about this article or reach out for design and planting advice for your garden, please contact Patricia by email: OttawaPlantByNumbers@gmail.com or on Instagram: @ottawaplantbynumbers