As a kid, trees simply were something fun to climb. But these days, trees have the potential to offer color and texture to your garden space throughout the year. As well as lending height and beauty, they cast cooling shade, absorb greenhouse gases, and provide homes and food for wildlife. Here's how to make them work in your planting design.
Creating a Woodland Setting
You can create a woodland effect with just a few well-chosen specimen
trees in a small garden or with a more varied selection on a larger lot.
Look for varieties with unusual stems for a striking effect even after
the leaves have fallen in the winter.
The dappled shade cast by your
chosen trees will offer sufficient light for a collection of
shade-loving plants. When choosing underplanting for your plan, look for
a selection of plants that will provide year-round interest.
Adding Height and Privacy
Any tree will add height to a garden, but to give a more contoured
effect, underplant it with shade-tolerant shrubs. Trees’ imposing
stature can be deployed to great effect in a city garden overlooked by
many windows. Use species with airy canopies to shield a seating area;
plant them close to the space that needs extra privacy, rather than on
the boundary where taller trees will be needed to mask upstairs windows.
Alternatively, plant a wall of pleached trees, which form a line of
clear, stiltlike stems topped by a screen of leafy branches just above
Using Trees as Focal Points
When selecting a tree for a focal point, opt for a year-round star
Choose a cherry or crabapple that will be covered with
delicate blossoms in the spring, provide a leafy canopy in the summer,
and put on a finale of blazing colors and shining fruits in the fall.
Alternatively, in a modern or formal garden, you could opt for a shapely
evergreen or a smart topiary specimen. Site your tree in the center of a
lawn, at the end of a pathway, or in a border to punctuate a corner or
curve in the design, and use small trees in pots to make an impact on a
patio or in a courtyard garden.
A long, tree-lined lane makes an impressive entrance, and a similar effect is possible in a small garden with fewer trees and a little pruning and training. Plant six to ten trees on either side of a pathway, and train their stems on frames to form arches of foliage. Use the same technique with a pair of matching trees to create a decorative arbor over a seat.
Providing Color and Texture
Before buying trees for color effects, look for those that offer more than one decorative feature. Spring blooms have instant appeal but last just a few weeks, while the deep red bark of a Prunus serrula or stunning white birch trunks provide color all year. If flowers are your passion, include a few different species, such as a cherry and the early summer blooms of Cornus kousa, to extend the display.
Plenty of good tree choices are available for fall color, prolonging the season of interest into early winter when the fallen leaves carpet the ground. Textures also add an extra dimension to planting designs; consider the pleated foliage of hornbeams or the spiky needles of pines and other conifers.