Native trees

Trees ©Janet AllenSome trees in our yard

Currently, we have some

Considering the size of our yard, we have a fair number of trees. But considering the importance of large trees, I wish we had space for more.

Although I like flowers as much as anyone, I'm trying to limit our flower beds in favor of more trees and shrubs.

Just as an apartment building can house many more people than a house on the same piece of land, a large tree can provide so much more habitat and other ecological benefits than can a flower bed (which in turn can provide so many more benefits than turf grass).

The easiest landscaping choice

Hemlock twig ©Janet AllenNew growth on our hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) tree

The ecological advantage of trees is good news as we get older and want to spend even less time maintaining gardens. How much easier can it be than to have trees and shrubs instead of flower beds or lawns?

We're choosing trees and shrubs that will fit the available space and not need to be pruned frequently. Trees are something we can just plant once (or even hire someone to do it), water the first few years, and then sit back and enjoy!

A bias against big trees

Black cherries ©Janet Allen
Black cherries

There seems to be a bias against planting large trees, native or otherwise. One of the most valuable trees (meaning it supports a lot of life) is nevertheless considered a "weed" the black cherry (Prunus serotina).

Even a book on native plants described it this way:

It is not a species that you would plant, but if you have a tree in an advantageous location, you can enjoy the interesting summer flowers, outstanding fall color, and distinctive "potato chip" bark. The fruits, while messy, are relished by birds and that alone may be a good reason to keep a tree on your property. It is also a host plant for many beautiful butterflies.

Multiple trunks ©Janet Allen
Multiple trunks

So let's see: interesting flowers, outstanding fall color, distinctive bark, fruits relished by birds, and host plant for many beautiful butterflies. So why is it "not a species I would plant"?

We were fortunate to have a small six foot black cherry on our property when we moved in, but we didn't know what it was. We just let it grow and later discovered it was a black cherry. It's been a wonderful habitat plant, though if we had known its value, we wouldn't have let it develop a weak double trunk. We may have to chain the trunks together, but we hope it lasts a good long time!

Raking leaves?

Fall leaves ©Janet Allen
Leaving the leaves where they fall

Not a problem. Leaves are only a problem for lawns. We have so little lawn that it's not difficult to rake. We just leave any leaves falling elsewhere to decompose in place. Just as in the forest, our plants emerge through the decomposed leaves in the spring.

Here is a list of the trees in our habitat garden.