Deciding where to plant a tree

Deciding where to plant a tree

Trees give an air of maturity and permanence to a garden. They add height and depth to even simple garden designs and provide shelter and privacy. These easy steps will help you properly plant your trees so they flourish.

Deciduous trees give shade in summer, while in winter the naked branches have a stark beauty outlined against the sky. Evergreen trees, be they broad-leaved or coniferous, will maintain their attraction throughout the year and are especially appreciated in colder climates during the drab months when there is little garden colour.

Most people select trees for their foliage, flowers, and forms, or for a specific purpose, such as to provide a windbreak. Since trees have to be lived with for many years, it is particularly important to choose, at the start, the right tree for the right purpose and place. In suburban residential areas, in particular, it is important that the height and scale of the trees be in keeping with the surrounding area.

1. Choosing where to plant a tree

As a general rule it is not advisable to plant trees close to your house. Not only can the roots eventually injure the foundation and drains, but fast-growing trees can also quickly exclude light and air from the house.

  • Avoid planting anything but dwarf evergreens or medium-size deciduous trees, such as flowering cherries or crab apples, in small gardens.
  • Trees should be in harmony with the house; they should not overshadow it.
  • A wide-spreading or very tall tree on a small front lawn can be quite out of proportion. Where trees overhang paths and driveways, there is both a nuisance and a danger from broken branches and, in fall, from leaves that are slippery underfoot in wet weather.
  • For such small areas, narrow, columnar conifers or similar types of deciduous trees fulfill the householder’s aesthetic as well as the practical needs.

2. Grouping trees

Wherever space allows, a group planting of three or five trees is usually more effective than a single specimen. By far the best effects come from letting one shape dominate the group — one tall tree, one thin tree, and one triangular-shaped tree will look awkward. No set pattern can be specified, but the trees should belong to the same genus and have roughly the same dimensions and shapes. Three hawthorns, say, or three crab apples, with different-coloured flowers and fruit, make a handsome group, as do several Japanese maples of various leaf shapes and autumn tints.

A group of variegated and green hollies is striking in winter, especially if the trees have berries of different hues. Conifers with silver or golden leaves are other obvious choices, while the blue-gray spruces are best as single specimens.

3. Spacing trees

The spacing between trees in a group depends on the varieties to be planted. The idea is to put them close enough together so that they are obviously a grouping — but not so close that they touch or shade one another when they mature.

The nurseryperson from whom you buy the trees can give you a good estimate as to their ultimate spread in your climate. Some judicious pruning can also be done if they tend to overgrow.

4. Planting trees for screens

Trees for screens and shelterbelts should be planted close together, but the initial spacing could well allow for the removal of every other tree as they grow larger. Such screens in their early stages are often made up of fast-growing deciduous trees and slower-growing conifers.

As the conifers become effective, the deciduous trees are then removed, providing this was the ultimate goal when you set out. Most nurseries and garden centres will give advice on suitable trees.


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