In the Garden:
Upper South
April, 2012
Regional Report

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Planting trees in your garden adds beauty and value.

An Investment in Trees

Of all the areas in my garden, one of the most beautiful and enjoyable is where my mother randomly planted trees as she acquired them. No grand plan, no details drawn on graph paper, just trees wherever she could squeeze them in. Yet the effect is magical, like being in a small, special park. Not everyone has the space or inclination to plant as many trees as she did, but the benefits of trees in the landscape are many. So why not create your own Arbor Day and Earth Day celebration anytime this spring by adding at least one tree to your garden?

Benefits of Planting Trees
Trees around your home make it more beautiful, but they also make life nicer, as it has been shown that spending time among trees and green spaces reduces the amount of stress in our lives. Trees create social spaces in your yard, whether for a child's swing or a family picnic. Consider adding some trees near a deck, terrace, or patio to provide natural shade and a feeling of enclosure, which makes for a more pleasant, relaxing atmosphere.

A neighborhood planted with trees has a calming effect on both neighbors and traffic, as studies have shown that traffic moves more slowly and safely along tree-lined streets. There are also economic benefits, with a well-landscaped home with mature, healthy trees increasing the home value as much as ten percent.

Another important aspect to having trees is their environmental benefits. Through their evaporative cooling and shade, trees keep your home cooler and using less energy. Deciduous trees, those that lose their leaves in the winter, are the ones to choose for planting on the east, west, or, especially, the south side of your home; they'll shade the house in the summer and allow the sun to shine through in the winter. Evergreen trees are best planted on the west and north sides of a home for shelter from winter winds, again helping lower energy use and costs.

Trees also improve our air quality by filtering harmful dust and pollutants, such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide, from the air we breathe, to say nothing of giving off the oxygen that we need to breathe. Trees also reduce the amount of storm water runoff, reducing erosion and pollution and flooding in our waterways.

For many of us, one of the particular pleasing benefits of trees is the birds that they bring to our gardens by providing food, protection, and homes for our songbirds.

Selecting and Planting Trees in Your Garden
With hundreds of different trees widely available, choosing just one or even several for your garden can be a daunting task. First of all, think about what the function of the tree is to be. Do you want it to provide shade or serve as a windbreak? Do you want flowers or fruit? Would you like it to have fall color, winter appeal, or colored foliage? To further narrow your choices, consider your type of soil, drainage, tree pests common to your area, hardiness, the space available, and maintenance issues.

Not surprisingly, there is a much smaller number of trees that are widely adaptable and popular, to say nothing of being readily available at nurseries and garden centers. Just remember that not everything sold should necessarily be on your list. For instance, silver maples are often chosen because they are fast growers, but the downside is that they have weak wood that is more apt to fall during storm, a zillion seeds, and leaves that not only have poor fall color but are also among the last to come down in the fall, extending your fall yard clean-up chores. And while flowering Callery pears are popular, they bring numerous problems to gardens. Talk to other gardeners, ask your county Extension office for information on trees recommended for your area, get advice from several nurseries or garden centers in your area, or speak with an arborist about which trees cause the most problems for customers.

Trees are an investment in both time and money, but the long-term rewards bring a wide assortment of dividends. Make plans this spring to celebrate your home, garden, and planet by planting trees.

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