How To Select Landscape Trees

By Keith Markensen

The selection and location of trees is probably the most lasting piece of work you will do in your garden. There is an old saying, "Think twice before you speak," but here we might say instead, "Think ten times before you plant a tree." It is not too difficult to change the plantings around the base of your home, the border plantings, hedges, and even stone paths once you find out that they are in the wrong place. But after a tree is planted, it is seldom moved. And trees are doubly important because they are truly the backbone of the entire landscape planting.

Foresee Ultimate Size

The fact that it takes trees quite a few years to become large enough to cast appreciable areas of shade and to fill in the landscape picture as we have planned it makes it extremely important that we work from a landscape plan. By so doing, even though we cannot afford immediately to carry out the plan in its entirety, we can usually, at least, start with the trees.

Plant Young Trees

Actually, it is often better to plant comparatively small trees (2 in. caliper or less at breast height ) for two main reasons: They cost less, and they become established in their new home more quickly. Many times a small tree planted at the same time as a bigger one will catch up with and surpass it in a matter of only 8 to 10 years! Not only that, but it will have a much more natural shape since it will not have been cut back so severely during transplanting operations.

Three Kinds

For our purposes we can divide trees into three general groups: 1 ) shade trees; 2) evergreen trees (with needled foliage); 3 ) flowering trees. Although there is no strict line of demarcation or separation between them, we can in general think of shade trees as being tall and large with comparatively inconspicuous flowers. By evergreen trees we usually mean those with needled foliage, such as the pines, spruces, hemlocks, and firs.

Most flowering trees like the bougainvillea tree will be smaller in size, but, in addition to having the shape of a tree, they are covered with conspicuous flowers. Magnolias, dogwoods, flowering cherries, etc. are examples.

Functions of Trees

All three types of tree can perform the following duties in the home landscape: shade trees, framing trees (to enhance buildings, vistas, or garden scenes ), screening, windbreaks, ornamental effects ( such as are provided by specimen trees, e.g., trees with interesting silhouettes against the sky), and trees used for their edible fruits or nuts. Whenever possible select a tree that can fill more than one use, e.g., a shade tree that can also act as an ornament. - 29857

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