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Choosing a Tree for your Garden  is a bit like choosing a spouse...

                     -we'd like them to be here for life.

Choosing a tree for your garden, is not quite the same as choosing a spouse. There are many things to consider. It's not just about falling in love with one.... because love, in this case, and in life, may not be enough.  

But back to trees.

Why you want to plant a tree in the first place? 

  • Do you want more shade? or a flowering tree for show- like the Magnolia below?
  • Or perhaps one for its unusual shape- like a corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana). 
  • A Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)can provide red leaves, shape and shade.
  • You might even want one for more height in your garden.
  • Or plant one in memory of someone special?
  • Of course, there are some you might want to be wary of: like the Black Walnut - see why and what to do if you have one..

No matter your reason, here are some questions you should consider before you lay down your hard-earned money for one tree or more.

What do you expect of this tree?

What are your design objectives?

What is your pruning budget?

Do I  want to plant a tree or do I need to ? 

What will its purpose be?

  • To create a little shade or a lot of shade?
  • Will it add to - or detract from my Garden Design?
  • What Shape do I want?
  • Is the colour of foliage important?

  • What about blossoms?
  • Do I need one for either erosion or wind control?

Some things to be concerned about

in choosing a tree:

Does it spread? (like Black Locust that pops up everywhere with its nasty thorns)

Is it invasive? www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca - this is the invasive plant council for Ontario but you can find one near you by searching for invasive plants in your area.

Is it toxic to my children or pets? Bark or leaves?

Is it toxic to my garden? (consider the Black Walnut)

Will it overtake my garden?

This gorgeous Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) -above- is very hardy as well as being hard to resist. It grows fairly quickly, lives for years, is easy to maintain, can be shaped into an interesting form and the fragrance is glorious.

Its cousin, the Preston Lilac (Syringa × prestoniae) is even faster growing, with sturdy stems, and blooms later. See what I  mean about choices?

See the growth of one here: 

Never ends, thank goodness.


UPRIGHT: needs little pruning but not much shade in the early morning or late afternoon as the canopy is higher up... 

PYRAMIDAL: Like Pin Oak, or Cedar and some Magnolia 

SPREADING: or rounded, oval. Lots of shade; a drooping canopy and needs regular pruning. When it grows to full height, will need a professional to prune. 

And for this glorious tree?

A "Forest Pansy Eastern Redbud"


How wide and tall will my tree get?

Some trees, like Norway Maples (Acer platanoides) grow quickly and are not good choices as garden trees unless you have a large property and even then, they are not particularly strong as they tend to have too many main branches because they are not usually pruned well.  They grow tall and are weak with large branches that splt off, falling on vehicles and gardens.

Their life-pan is about 40 years and many cities that planted them for their fast growth, are now cutting them down by the dozen.

  • How much space will my tree need?

  • Is it the right size and shape for my garden?
  • How close can I plant to my house, my neighbour, or to the street?
  • Are there any bylaws I may need to consider? What about Power lines?
  • Do I really want a full sized tree?
  • Or do I just want an ornamental tree?
  • Will my choice of tree change the light in my garden? (such as from sunny to dappled or even deep shade eventually)
  • If so, does that still fit with my garden vision or will I have to make some major changes before I am ready or can afford to?
  • PLANTING trees the right way is essential.

This new White Oak tree (above at end of hedge) is about 10 years old and was planted two years ago.  Although it is slow growing, I have lifted its canopy to minimize shade  in the garden by pruning the limbs up from the bottom.  

I was also careful to make sure there is only one leader - or main stem at the top.  Having more than one will weaken the tree and can cause the trunk to split when the tree matures.

Intentional PRUNING is vital.

Japanese Maples provide colour, shape and add such a lovely feel to a garden.  They can be pruned to keep them more contained and so would fit into most gardens in zone 5 that have some protection from winter winds.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • what is my plan for the garden as the tree grows?
  • What is my budget? How large a tree can I afford now? 
  • What will my tree need as far as care, like pruning?
  • Wet feet?
  • Dry soil?
  • Do the roots spread laterally, or is the root a deep tap root?
  • What will I need to do for regular maintenance and pruning?
  • Can I manage this tree myself, or will I need help?
  • Is it suitable for my space, my soil, my zone?

Goodness, so many questions.

But the bottom line is, the answers to these questions will make choosing the tree(s) for your garden much easier.

You still have to love your choice but at least now your tree will have the best chance to survive in your garden.

Do your research so choosing garden trees will be a pleasure.






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