The 10 “Must-Haves” for your Landscape: #2 Trees

(After) 12 years

(After) 12 years

This is the second in a series of articles on the Ten “Must-Have’s” in your Landscape (view the first article here). Trees are so important in our landscapes not just for aesthetics, but to provide shade and save on energy, filter the air, screen the things we don’t want to see, and provide habitats for wildlife. We also have an emotional connection with trees as they are often used in times of remembrance or to celebrate an important event in our lives. Trees live a long time so we should really think long and hard before removing a tree. It may have been living for hundreds of years!


(Before) Trees just planted

Make an investment in Trees

The earlier we invest in trees, the quicker our landscape will start to look “put together”.  Trees take a long time to grow, so we often don’t see the rewards of our investment for several years.  As you can see in the two photos to the right – 12 years to look grown up!  It is great to see the three tiers of trees in a landscape.  Some of us are lucky to have inherited the “over-story” trees.  These are the ones you find near the woods and include the large hardwood trees like Oaks and Maples and tall pine trees. They add a sense of wonder at their shear magnificence as you know they were there well before you came along.   The second tier of trees are the ones that we plant in our landscapes, a lot of which will be smaller than the huge hardwoods.  Then there is a third tier of trees that are small trees which fit in well with smaller landscapes.  It is great if you can have all three tiers in your landscape, but quite often space does not permit this.

What trees should you plant?

We have a lot of trees to chose from at the Family Tree Garden Center and sometimes it can be overwhelming.  We have a list of trees on our website that we usually carry, so this is a good starting place to see the general form and color of the tree.  We also have a list of Small Trees as we are often asked to recommend trees that can fit into smaller landscapes. When choosing a tree, the first question you should ask yourself is how much sun does your yard get.  If you have a shady yard, a lot of trees will not be suitable, so that makes your choice a little easier.  Most of us will have sunny yards if we are investing in trees because we want some shade!  If you want to plant some hardwoods like Oaks and Maples, make sure you plant them far enough away from your house. The root systems on large trees can be quite extensive. Some people think that tree roots go down into the ground.  While some trees do have a tap-root, most trees have their roots in the top 12 inches of soil and the roots extend beyond the canopy of the tree.  So if a tree is going to be 25 feet wide, it needs to be at least half that distance away from your house foundation or sidewalks, and to be on the safe side, a lot farther.

Over-story Trees

October Glory Red Maple

October Glory Red Maple

Some examples would be Red Maples, Sugar Maples, River Birch, Beech, Gingko, Southern Magnolia, Dawn Redwood, Deodar Cedar, Oaks, Weeping Willow, Bald Cypress and Elms.  These trees all get very large and need to be placed at the rear or sides of your property, or if you have a large front lawn they can be used as specimens. You will see a lot of newer neighborhoods that have a requirement that the front yard contain one or two large trees.  Red Maples are extremely popular because of the wonderful fall color they provide.  Ginkgos also have amazing yellow fall color but if you are planting one of these trees, plant big as they are slow growers and they get huge!


Coral Bark Maple

Second Tier trees

These trees are the ones that we can plant a little closer to the house.  They usually provide some form of interest whether it be flowers, leaf texture, growth habit, or leaf color.  They are not “small” trees.  Some trees in this category would be some of the large Crape Myrtles, Cherries, the smaller evergreen Magnolias, Chinese Fringe Tree (a very underused tree that needs to be used more!), Dogwoods, Redbuds, and some of the larger ornamental Maples like Coral Bark Maple or Bloodgood Maple.  I must admit the Coral Bark Maple is one of my favorites with its red bark and beautiful leaf color.  This tree makes a great specimen!

Small Specimen Trees

Jade Butterfly Gingko

Jade Butterfly Gingko

These trees are definitely your ‘focal points’.  A lot of them are weeping varieties such as Weeping Birch, Weeping Japanese Maples, Weeping Redbuds, Weeping Cherries, Weeping Spruce and so on.  There is even a dwarf Gingko called Jade Butterfly which has glorious leaf color.  A lot of smaller Crape Myrtles have flooded the landscape industry over recent years, so there is a Crape Myrtle for any location!  The Star and Tulip Magnolias also provide that early spring fever with their beautiful blooms.


Have fun with some trees and remember to invest in them early!

If you are still not sure where to begin, come in and see us at the Family Tree.  We also offer a free Quick Sketch or a full Landscape Design Service that will help you get started.

Happy Gardening!
Tracy Davis

Be sure to check out the rest of Tracy’s list of the top 10 ‘must-haves’ for your landscape!

#1 Foundation Plants
#2 Trees
#3 Screening
#4 A Welcoming Front Entry
#5 Pops of Color
#6 Focal Points
#7 Nooks
#8 Hardscaping
#9 Entertaining Areas
#10 Animal Friends