Trees for Greater Impact
By Carrie P. Williams
Nothing says 'homestead' like a humble abode behind a few huge,
imposing oak trees, doesn't it? Sure it does -- as long as you've got the large
property to hold it all. Unfortunately, these majestic acreages of land is
something less and less of us get to call our own. With more of the population
residing in suburban areas, we have less space on our property to devote to
those arching giants of the plant kingdom. How is one to have their trees and
see their house as well?
Using smaller trees in your landscape can offer quite a lot of
benefits. Not only do they keep in scale with the size of your house, they are
usually easier to maintain, have a more regular growth habit, grow in a more
confined area like patios or courtyards, and can still offer just as much in the
way of aesthetics as a larger flowering tree.
Planting a towering oak or cedar around a small neighborhood
home will eventually make your property feel like The Little Creepy Cottage in
the Woods. Not only will you feel uncomfortable, so will your closely-situated
neighbors. Having large trees on a small property end up dwarfing the house,
hiding it from the street, and providing an overwhelming feeling around the
entire area. Having smaller trees, properly placed, will keep the area feeling
"right," and will keep these newer, smaller houses feeling in scale with their
Providing a smaller area with trees and shrubs with a more
regular growth habit will also keep the area to scale, and smaller trees can
provide a lot of that for you. With a regularly growing tree, you will not be
caught off-guard by a sudden growth spurt or other quick, significant change. By
picking out a nicely sized smaller tree, you will not have to guess at what the
eventual look of the plant will be; it will already be showing you. A tree with
a regular growth habit will also require less pruning and general upkeep from
you, which can be a godsend for those of us with perpetually busy lives.
Don't think that because you are restricting yourself to a
selection of smaller trees for your landscape, you have less to choose from in
the way of aesthetics or quality. Smaller trees have much more to offer than
just their diminutive size. Since many smaller trees have been selected and bred
for the landscape, particular attention has been paid to desirable traits such
as flowers, fall color, form, and leaf color. As a result, there are many
different trees to choose from. The world is your golden aster, so to speak.
Smaller trees also have the added benefits of requiring less
space, water, and nutrients to live. Planting smaller trees and shrubs in more
confined spaces like container pots or cement- bound areas usually poses no
problem to the plant, and can add great visual impact to your landscape.
No discussion about small trees would be sufficient without some
great examples, so the following is a much-abbreviated list to get you started.
Here in the deep South, a great staple of the small-tree world is the crepe
myrtle, of which there are some forms that get no larger than three feet high.
There are also some smaller selections of southern magnolia, Japanese maple, and
waxleaf ligustrum to pick from. A bit farther north, you can add sourwood,
eastern redbud, serviceberry, and dwarf Alberta spruce to your list. Some other
trees to try (if you've the climate for it) include flowering apricot, smoke
tree, loquat, and paperbark maple. These examples listed are only the mere
beginnings of an ample tome of small tree options.
Before you begin to feel overwhelmed by your landscape, plan
ahead and consider how a smaller tree just might be the best choice to blend in
with your home and landscape. The benefits and selection of contemporary smaller
trees can be much more fitting with today's modern properties than the towering
trees of years past. With proper planning, design, and implementation, you can
create a magnificent landscape with the smallest of enhancements.