TREE BASICS & WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOU BUY A TREE
Updated: Jun 10
Do you want to add a tree to your landscape but don't know where to start? Even I, a landscape designer, can find the process of buying a tree quite intimidating. It is an expensive and long-term commitment and one I would prefer not to mess up.
So what do I do to help with the process? I first ask myself these 2 basic questions:
What is the purpose of the tree?
How tall and wide should the tree be so it fits in the space but doesn't outgrow it?
If you answer these questions before you go shopping for a tree, it will make the process much easier. You can read the labels and see if the tree fits your criteria. Anyone helping you will also have an easier time pointing you in the direction of a tree that you can incorporate beautifully into your landscape.
SOME TREE BASICS
What is a Tree?
For the purpose of landscape design, a tree is generally a woody plant (meaning it does not die to the ground in the winter like most perennials) with a single trunk and branches off that trunk. (However, there are a few trees that do come in multi-stem varieties such as Redbuds (Cercis canadensis).
Evergreen v. Deciduous
Evergreen trees are what their name implies, "forever green", meaning they are green all year long.
Deciduous trees have leaves on them for part of the year, usually mid-Spring to the end of the Fall. They generally are categorized into two types:
Large shade trees
Small flowering trees
What is the Purpose of Your Tree? Why Do You Want This Tree?
Do you need to block an unsightly view all year long? Choose an evergreen tree.
Are you only concerned with blocking a view during the summer months? Any type of tree - evergreen, flowering tree or shade tree - could work.
Does your landscape look very dull, especially in the winter, then you may want an evergreen tree. (The general rule of thumb is that 1/3 of your plants should be evergreen so your property is interesting all year long.) Another option is to choose a deciduous tree with really cool bark.
Do you need shade over your patio or home? Choose a deciduous shade tree and opt for one of the faster growing species.
Do you want a pretty tree to add interest in spring, summer and/or fall? Then pick a deciduous flowering tree. You can choose a type that flowers in the spring, has really pretty colored and shaped leaves, interesting bark and/or puts on a fall leaf show.
Are you looking for a specimen or wow factor tree? Then you will likely want a smaller flowering tree although, don't discount some of the funky evergreen trees out there.
How Big of a Tree Do You Need?
Before you go shopping, measure the area and determine how tall and wide you would like the tree to ultimately be. One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they buy a tree without having any idea about how big it will get. They end up regretting their decision because, for example, the tree is now too close to their home or the roots are wreaking their patio. They end up wasting money removing and replacing the tree. The saying, "the right plant for the right place", is crucial, especially when size is concerned. The aim is to plant a tree that will last a lifetime in that location.
Both evergreen and deciduous trees come in a variety of sizes. Some shade and evergreen trees reach close to 100 feet tall over their lifetime (although, sorry to break it to you, probably not in your lifetime). Some trees also can be quite short such as Japanese Maples. Trees come in a variety of widths from super wide to skinny (aka columnar).
Fast v. Slow Growing Species
Another note regarding size is how fast the tree grows. If you want to fill in an area quickly, you will want to choose a fast-growing species. If the tree grows slowly, you don't have to worry that it will not take over the area anytime soon, but you also don't want to buy one that is too small because it will take a long time for it to fill in and look good in the landscape.
Some Examples of Trees:
STILL NEED HELP?
One of the services Blooms, Birds & Bees offers is garden consultation so if you still need help, contact Lynda of BB&B at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can discuss your landscape design issue and determine how we can help you choose the right tree for your landscape.