Trees for Shade, Accent, Screening, Fruit and Framing

Most everyone loves trees and wants at least one in their landscape.  However, a significant number of property owners who love trees end up putting the “wrong tree in the wrong place”.  The result is trees that are too big for the space allotted, that don’t block the view or wind, cast too much or not enough shade and produce no fruit.  Why does this happen to people who want a good outcome?  In most cases, it’s because not enough thought went into the purpose of the tree and choosing one that fits the bill.

In order to avoid this mistake, simply implement the time honored landscaping principle of right plant, right place, but with a twist; think “right purpose”.  Let’s take a look at each category mentioned.

Shade – Size and shape are really important for shade trees.  Investigate the eventual size and shape of the tree under consideration.  Next, think about what it is you want to cast shade upon.  A deck?  Your house?  The dog run?  These elements would benefit from shade but others such as a vegetable garden and the lawn would not.

Accent – Curb appeal and habitat value are the greatest benefits of accent trees.  Typically, these are small trees that offer color, texture or other attraction in 3 or 4 seasons and help define a space or part of the landscape.  They are often well sited in front yards of small residential properties.

Screening – Creating a visual separation between “your space” and “that ugly thing over there” is a chief benefit of screening trees.  Other screens are planted to decrease wind speed into the property and provide space enclosure.

Fruit – The added benefit of eating from a landscape plant is hard to beat, but before planting, investigate eventual size, sun exposure and pollination sources for fruit trees.  They generally require open air spaces for pollinator access and foliar disease reduction, full sun exposure and room to grow.  Apples and pears are the most reliable fruit tree species in eastern Nebraska.  Peaches are also good choices with the understanding that in 2 or 3 out of 5 years, no fruit will be harvested from them due to early frosts.

Most everyone loves trees and wants at least one in their landscape.  However, a significant number of property owners who love trees end up putting the “wrong tree in the wrong place”.

Framing – Framing trees are usually planted in the back or side yard, and viewed from the street side of a property.  They provide a backdrop for the house and rest of the landscape, and help to focus attention on the elements between or adjacent to them.  They tend to be the tallest trees in the landscape.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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