Fill a garden with annuals and perennials, create a garden for a season;
plant a garden with trees, create a garden for the ages.
Most people think about flowers first when planning a landscape but trees should be our first consideration. They are the largest plants in the landscape and have the greatest visual impact.
As trees mature, they give a garden unique character and structure. Whether evergreen or deciduous, their presence remains even after winter forces other plants to retreat back into the soil.
Trees provide shelter from sun and wind, giving gardeners the chance to grow a wider variety of plants. Their leaves block the sun’s rays creating a habitat for shade-loving plants. Without trees, we couldn’t grow hostas, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a shade garden without hostas! Plants that need shielding from wind exist happily with their protection. Ferns grow lush under the shelter of trees; without them, they appear worn and tattered.
In addition to making the landscape more beautiful, there are many more reasons we should give thanks for trees.
Trees provide Economic Benefits
A mature tree in a landscape has an appraised value of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 according to the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers. Management Information Systems reports, “Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20%.”
Trees that shade south and west walls and windows of a home reduce the cost of air conditioning in the summer. Evergreen trees planted to block cold winter winds lower heating bills in winter.
Trees Provide Environmental Benefits
Think of trees as Earth’s lungs. They give off oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the air helping in the fight against global warming. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen.”
Trees reduce rainwater runoff in a couple ways. Leaves of trees interrupt falling raindrops, slow their descent, and ease their impact on the soil below. Their roots grip the soil so groundwater can be replenished and soil, along with chemicals, is not washed into storm drains, ditches, or streams.
While trees don’t significantly reduce noise, the movement of their branches and leaves offer a pleasant ‘white noise’ to divert attention away from street noise.
Trees Provide Wildlife Benefits
Many trees provide nesting habitats, shelter from weather, and places to escape from predators. Flowering trees provide food for songbirds. There are trees with tasty fruit that birds relish and eat early; and there are trees with less palatable fruit that serves as emergency food in late winter when birds are hungry and less finicky.
Trees Provide Health Benefits
We need trees for our own good health. There are the obvious healthful benefits of eating the fruits and nuts grown on trees. Herbalists rely on many species of trees to make herbal medicines, and there is research to suggest many other benefits.
Research done at the Landscape and Human Health Lab at University of Illinois has shown that symptoms of children’s ADHD can be reduced when kids perform activities in green settings.
And lab research done by Dr. Roger S. Ulrich of Texas A&M University has shown that visual exposure to settings with trees produces significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension. When I’ve had a rough day, the first thing I do when I get home is take a short walk through my garden. My family benefits as much as I do!
Giving thanks for trees and all the benefits they provide is significant, but the action we take is critical. Let’s all plant at least one tree today, on Arbor Day, for ourselves and our children, for the birds, and for our planet. Plant trees and garden with me!