Trees are important features in residential areas but less and less people seem to be planting them in their front and backyards. The downward trend in house block size has had a large impact on trees in suburban areas because very few house blocks have enough space now for the large trees of yesteryear, including Oaks, Angophoras and Elms. The benefits of larger trees is that they soften the impact of residential development and create lovely shaded streets. New developments often feel exposed because there is no shade in the streets. Small-sized backyards often contain beds with low growing perennials and grasses. Without trees and shrubs a garden can lack interest and continue to look unestablished many years after it has been planted.
I have heard a lot of reasons why homeowners have chosen not to plant trees or think the ones they have are a nuisance, including messy leaves in Autumn, limb-drop issues, blocking sunlight to the house and solar panels, ‘annoying’ fruits and seeds that drop on the ground and roots that will ‘get into the pipes’. However, if you select the right tree and place it in the right spot, most of these problems can be avoided.
Often a combination of deciduous and exotic is the way to go. In some situations a deciduous tree will be ideal because it can provide much needed shade in the summer and still allow the sun through in winter. Sometimes evergreen trees will be ideal as a row along a fence to block out unsightly views all year round. Just be careful not to plant too many evergreen trees because the space underneath them can become too shaded and cold in the winter.
Eight great reasons to plant trees:
- Beautiful flowers and interesting foliage. Sometimes flowers in garden beds will get ‘lost’ visually amongst the shrubbery. The impact of flowering trees can really lift a garden because they can be seen from a long distance away and are often visible when looking out the windows from rooms inside the house. Trees with amazing displays of flowers include Crab Apple, Cape Chestnut, Horse Chestnut, Indian Bean Tree, Magnolia and Flowering Cherry.
- Great habitat. Trees provide a safe haven for beneficial insects and native fauna, including pollinating birds and bees.
- Food. Lots of trees produce fantastic fruit and nuts, think Apple, Pear, Citrus, Plum, Cherry and Chestnut trees to name a few.
- Instant Garden. At least a couple of semi-advanced or advanced trees can make all the difference in a new garden and help it to look and feel established.
- Shade, shade and more shade. The impact of scorching summers can be lessened inside and outside the house by the inclusion of shade trees. Carefully placed deciduous trees to the north and trees to the west of the house can help to reduce the amount of sun heating up the walls and windows of a house. Just make sure you choose tree that won’t grow to a size that will block any solar panels on your roof.
- Ambiance. Dappled shade creates a lovely atmosphere. Think Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) (see photo), Golden Robinia (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’) and Maples such as Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) or Full Moon Maple (Acer japonicum ‘Vitifolium’).
- Colour and interest. Whether it is interesting bark, beautiful foliage or autumn leaf colour, you can select trees that will provide the effect you are looking for. One of the hardest tasks in designing my own garden on a residential block has been selecting which trees to include, because there are just so many I love. I have narrowed the selection down to five trees, which was tough to do.
- Do something good for the environment. Not only do trees store carbon, but they also help to improve water quality before it enters the stormwater system in residential areas which helps keep our water catchments healthy.
Select wisely and the benefits of trees will far outweigh the negatives.