by Charlene Burgi
Recently I visited a beautiful, well-established garden with several other people. Many that attended the garden walk wanted to know how to design such a lovely garden. My comment was that you start with the “bones.” I could see the puzzled looks of those listening as their gazes wandered to two canines rousting about.
As with any design, you need to start with a foundation. To me, the trees are the bones in the plant palette of the landscape world. Trees provide the foundation of your design, determining light exposure, microclimates and form for the rest of the garden.
Trees come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Some lose their leaves every fall, and some lose their leaves throughout the year. Some have needles instead of leaves, and some display gorgeous flowers or bountiful crops of fruit. Water needs vary with different species as well as root development. And yes, some produce more pollen than others. Will you want winter shade or need protection from summer sun?
With all the options before you, choosing the “bones” for your garden can be an overwhelming process. May I suggest you drive around and look at the placement of trees in gardens that attract you? Find out which trees will give you the “look” you are trying to achieve and learn about their growing habits and propensity to disease. Determine the tree’s ultimate height and width to see how that will affect the surrounding area. Determine if there are power lines in the vicinity and choose a variety that won’t grow into those lines.
Once you have made your choice, remember the most important part of the process: “It is better to put a one-dollar plant in a five-dollar hole, than a five-dollar plant in a one-dollar hole.” (And those prices indicate how long I have been using that quote!)