Garden Designers Roundtable: “Trees”, an Important Element in Landscape Design!

Garden Designers Roundtable: “Trees”, an Important Element in Landscape Design!

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose

~ Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was talking about money when she wrote “God Bless the Child” with Arthur Herzog in 1939, but it’s a sentiment I find could easily describe trees, and the homeowners lucky enough to have them on their property. Here in the northeast trees are often taken for granted, often being the first things to go when a homeowner wants to make landscape improvements. It seems that most of the marketing for the green industry is aimed at either growing a perfectly manicured lawn or creating a garden full of sun loving perennials. In both cases, trees get in the way.

But if you look past the marketing bias, you’ll find there are many benefits to having trees in your garden. Let’s take a look…

Structure

The most successfully designed gardens are those that provide year round interest. They give something to the visitor long after and well before the showy blooms of spring and summer. A tree in a garden adds complexity during the season and stark beauty during the bleak months.

The blossoms of this Dogwood are beautiful, but the trunk of the Oak tree gives depth to this scene.
The blossoms of this Dogwood are beautiful, but the trunk of the Oak tree gives depth to this scene.
The snow frosted branches of this Hemlock create a pleasing vignette with this White Oak.
The snow frosted branches of this Hemlock create a pleasing vignette with this White Oak.
Deep in winter, this Sugar Maple provides amazing interest.
Deep in winter, this Sugar Maple provides amazing interest.

Definition

Trees give the designer tools to define space in a garden both in vertical plane and horizontal. With upright narrow growth, trees such as Fastigiate Hornbeam and Columnar Blue Spruce act as walls to define the borders of property and garden rooms.

Fastigiate Hornbeam Picture from Sugar Hill Nurseries
Fastigiate Hornbeam Picture from Sugar Hill Nurseries
Columnar Blue Spruce picture from Fossil Creek Nursery
Columnar Blue Spruce picture from Fossil Creek Nursery

Drama

Perhaps the best reason to use trees in a garden is drama. Drama found in the form of fall color, exfoliating bark, high canopy, or amazing blossom.

Beautiful fall color of Sourwood!
Beautiful fall color of Sourwood!
Exfoliating bark on the Heritage River Birch provides year round interest.
Exfoliating bark on the Heritage River Birch provides year round interest (Blue Heron Landscape Design)
These Star Magnolia provide drama in the canopy and on the ground.
These Star Magnolia provide drama in the canopy and on the ground.
The high canopy of this Red Maple creates an amazing sense of scale, especially in the fall!
The high canopy of this Red Maple creates an amazing sense of scale, especially in the fall!

Shade

The beauty, depth, and richness, of a shade garden can only be created when large trees are present, providing canopy to a space. Senses awaken and the connection is visceral.

Rich, full colors of the shade garden
Rich, full colors of the shade garden At O’Brien Nursery
Hosta and Hellebore thrive in the shade garden
Hosta and Hellebore thrive in the shade garden at O’Brien Nursery
A beautiful combination designed by Margaret Roach in her shade garden!
A beautiful combination designed by Margaret Roach in her shade garden!
A Larch anchors this shade garden
A Larch anchors this shade garden, with Hosta and Bugbane (Blue Heron Landscape Design)

When considering your next landscape improvements, please friends, look to the trees as assets, and let them provide the tools to create an amazing space in your garden!

How are the trees in your garden of benefit? I’d love to hear about them, leave me a comment. And, please visit the other blogger’s of the Roundtable with the following links, and see how they value trees.

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.

10 thoughts on “Garden Designers Roundtable: “Trees”, an Important Element in Landscape Design!

  1. Great attributes, even more so in contrast to miles of no trees! Billie Holliday…interesting application, though I think of the obvious – her rendition of “Summer-time, and the livin’ is easy, …” One time while in Texas, a friend of mine and I sat on his front porch under some oaks, he playing it on his guitar. The trees made it!

  2. Scott, When it comes to trees. ‘right plant, right place’ is critical. I think much of the negative issues with trees comes from people not maintaining their trees or planting the wrong tree to begin with. You’ve presented a good reminder of the reasons why it’s important to plant trees. Like Christina, I LOVE that sourwood. Is that planted near you someplace?

    1. Great points Debbie. and Thanks for the comments! That Sourwood is just over the border in Simsbury, right on the main road. Get to see it all the time! There is another in East Granby, that is twice the size and very impressive!

  3. Great points all of them. I have noticed that carefully spaced trees play with perspective very nicely, a space can be made to look bigger (or smaller!) with the right setting of trees.
    I’d note a strict economic one as well: trees can easily cut the a/c bill substantially. They also can cut the heating bill if working as windbreaks, but that is less obvious in Ct. In urban environments they have also been shown to reduce road noise, dust, and to actually slow the cars (it appears to be pyschological thing: people drive slower on tree lined streets)
    But the problem is right tree in the right place….
    For me though, trees are also a generational/historical link. Much of the atmosphere of the place where I live and work is created by the trees people planted five generations ago. That a few of the trees I have planted could live long enough to be important to people in another 140 years? That would be a legacy.

    1. So much to cover when it comes to trees Anne, isn’t there? Thank you for your thoughtful comments on this subject. I agree with your points, all excellent. You are dialed into the benefits of having trees in our landscapes, and in our lives. Perhaps there is another blog port to be written, or maybe several… Thanks again, I appreciate your comments!

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