By Phran Novelli
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Big trees with littler leaves are the best of both worlds – they shade your home in the summer to keep you cooler, and then make clean up easier in the fall. So, if you need to replace a shade tree you lost this year, look for a native tree – they’re easy to grow around here because they already know how, and many of our beautiful natives have smaller leaves.
American beeches, Fagus grandifolia, have tall towering silver trunks, but their leaves are just a couple of inches across. The aptly named ‘Willow oak’ or Quercus phellos, has straight, narrow leaves less than an inch wide and they don’t resemble most oak leaves you’ve seen before at all. Then there’s our sublime Nyssa sylvatica, often called black gum or black tupelo, which has smaller, round-to-oval leaves that turn a stunning bright scarlet in fall.
Even left on your lawn, littler leaves break down faster than large, leathery ones, so they’re much less likely to smother what grows below. Smaller leaves are easier to blow, mow, vacuum and shred, too. But easiest of all, you can just rake or sweep them into garden beds to create a cozy cover mulch under shrubs and over perennials and bulbs. There, the leaves will break down considerably over winter, turning into fabulous fertilizer to feed all of your plants.