A well positioned, healthy tree can bring a lush, leafy ambience to your home or work environment as well as protection from the elements.
The following check list will ensure you choose the best tree for your situation.
1. Take a hike
Look at trees growing in your own neighbourhood. This will give you an idea of how trees will look when mature. Also, whatever you see growing well in your neighbour’s garden is also likely to grow well in your own.
2. Size matters
When buying a shade tree, find out how big it is likely to grow to ensure it fits in your garden space (both above and below the ground). Ensure that branches cannot grow into power lines or drop leaf litter on your roof, and root systems cannot damage paving or buildings. As a general rule, the root system of a tree is likely to mirror the spread of the tree’s canopy (although this will vary with different tree species and soil conditions, so always ask if you’re unsure).
3. Tree shape and pruning
The best shade trees will have a spreading, umbrella-shaped canopy to block overhead sunlight. Branches should come off the trunk from around head level so you can easily stand and walk underneath them. Pruning off the lower branches of many trees can help ‘train’ them into an ideal shape.
4. West is best
The success of a shade tree can often depend on where it is positioned. Shade trees that block sunlight coming from the west will be most beneficial as western sunlight can create unpleasantly hot situations, especially on summer afternoons. Planting a leafy, evergreen tree on the western side of your home or entertaining area will create the perfect kind of shade at all the right times. Try it and see!
5. Clear the north
Some kinds of shade are better than others. Sunlight from the north can be very beneficial as it can warm your home or living area during the cold winter months. What’s more, homes with a clear northern aspect tend to have a bright, jolly atmosphere because they have good natural light. Shade trees planted on the north (and north- eastern) side of your home should be deciduous (lose their leaves in winter), to allow this wonderful source of winter warmth and light into your home.
6. The right shade
Some tree species have a dense canopy that will block all overhead sunlight. Other trees will create semi-shade. Most types of lawn will resent overhead shade, so consider alternatives such as decking, gravel or under storey plants that will enjoy the available light conditions. Some trees are deciduous at different times of year, so make sure you do your research. When in doubt, always ask at your garden centre.
7. The perfect tree!
Make a list of other qualities you are looking for in a shade tree — fragrant flowers, beautiful foliage, bird attracting, etc. and visit your local garden centre — list in hand!
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