How to Use Trees for Shade and Beauty in Your Garden

by : Hege Crowton



Perhaps if any one feature can be singled out as basic to successful landscaping, it is the presence of fine trees.

The unfortunate trend of developmental builders in cutting down trees in a wholesale manner, and the growing use of treeless fields for new building, has focused attention on the property owner who must begin with nothing when it comes to trees.

Architects agree that a single shade tree, even of medium height, can make a very great difference in the comfort and liveability of a house It is amazing to discover what a tree can do for a house.

A tree in leaf, for example, can reduce noises from the street. A tree tall enough to throw shade over the roof can materially reduce heat in summer.

Trees can lessen the amount of dust around a house and provide protection from winds. But there are also the many aesthetic considerations. There are the things that shrubs and trees can do to improve the looks of your house itself.

Properly situated, they can sharply alter the lines of your house. They can give a small house dignity; appear to reduce the ungainly height of a tall house; soften the lines of a new house and provide welcome contrasts in colour and texture.

You need to plan from the beginning to plant new trees that will harmonize with the colours of your house and best suit its architectural style.

When you are planning for new trees bear in mind the annual cycle of the tree; how long it holds its leaves, what its colours are during blossoming, when it is in fruit or full berry, and in fall, when its leaves change colour.

Plan to contrast flowering deciduous trees with evergreens; slender trees that owe much of their virtue to the colour and line of their trunks and branches-the white clump birch, for example-with trees that are chiefly beautiful in mass, such as the weeping willow or the new purple fringe. (The latter is a tree that looks like a cloud of smoke when in bloom.)

If you are planning vistas for large grounds-and this is a useful rule even for smaller spaces-have in your design a foreground, a middle ground and a background. A background is most naturally composed of large trees.

Here can be used many of the species of rough and irregular growth which would not look too well at close range. These trees will give a gentle texture to what would otherwise be an unbroken and monotonous background surface. In the foreground use flowering shrubs.

Then, for the middle ground, use the many medium-sized trees and large shrubs which can be singled out for colourful foliage or blossoming.

This advice applies mainly to new planting. If you have just bought your property and are thinking of taking out a tree that blocks a view, or is otherwise objectionable, wait at least a year.

Live with the tree, observe it in its various colours through the seasons and carefully consider its advantages as well as its disadvantages, remember that a tree once destroyed is difficult to replace.

Aside from the ornamental qualities of trees, the two most important ways in which they can improve your property are by screening and giving shade. Perhaps you are overlooking a chance to use one of the shade trees on your grounds for a pleasant gathering spot.

Put down some paving, place a few deck chairs there, and come summer everyone will gravitate to this spot. Use the shade of your trees for the children's area, and if you don't have a tree on the south, southeast or southwest side of your house, plant one or two there.

If you are using trees to screen off an unpleasant view, use evergreens which will do the job the year round.

In deciding what trees you wish to acquire, which you wish to save, take into account their ability to thrive in your climate and soil conditions. Also, find out their rate of growth.

If you have a new house you will want rapid-growing trees and shrubs that bloom within two to three years after transplanting. Sometimes, however, as in foundation planting, a slower rate of growth is advantageous; it means the tree will not be bothered by crowding.

The shape, colour of blossoms and foliage, height and spread, habits - you will want to avoid trees that mess up a lawn or terrace with seed droppings or insects-are other important factors.

Think not only of the old favourites but of some of the new Oriental and European imports and the many colourful new hybrids as well. And do not discount the value of fruit and nut trees as ornamental trees, for many are lovely, particularly in the spring.