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Landscape Trees - Don’t Make These Mistakes When Choosing One For Your Garden

Many home gardeners choose a landscape tree based on spectacular flower color or some other showy feature. The professional garden designer however, considers flower color at the end not at the beginning of the design process.

Choosing a landscape tree is without a doubt the most fateful decision as far as the garden is concerned. The right decision can make the garden, while an unwise choice is liable to turn the garden into a liability. Landscape professionals and garden designers follow a systematic procedure by which they arrive at the species of their choice. By understanding this process, you can at the very least, avoid some of the worst mistakes.

The criteria for choosing a garden tree can be grouped into three separate but related categories. The first involves the basic cultural requirements of the tree and takes into account such factors as temperature, shade and sun, and soil conditions. To choose a stunningly beautiful tree that is unsuited to the climate or aspect of your garden is clearly a basic error.

The second category concerns certain characteristics of the tree that make it undesirable for a particular plot, like aggressive roots, excessive litter, poisonous berries, or disagreeable smell. Male specimens of the Carob are a good example of this last point.

The designer turns to the third aspect, after the first two categories have been examined and the tree’s credentials deemed satisfactory. This involves the suitability of the species from a design angle. The designer examines a number of criteria in strict order of priority. If a certain tree “fails” in one, the designer removes it from the shortlist. It’s as simple as that. Here is an outline of the procedure that you too can follow.


The potential tree has to have dimensions appropriate to the size and scale of the plot. The cardinal error is to plant a species that will prove too large in years to come, while believing that it can “always” be pruned back if necessary. Do not make the mistake of trying to fit the tree to the space.


Before thinking of your favorite species, see in your mind’s eye the shape of the mature tree. Whether you like it or not, its shape will visually affect the garden more significantly than anything other than its size. Should the tree be tall and slim like a Cypress, rounded, conical in shape, weeping like a Willow, or umbrella-like?

Deciduous or Evergreen?

This is another strategic decision that precedes the actual choosing of the species. A well-balanced garden will contain evergreens for stability and screening, and deciduous trees for dynamic change through the seasons. Deciduous species are generally preferred as shade trees, because they screen the sun in the summer, while letting in its rays when out of leaf during the winter.

Leaf Texture and Bark

The foliage texture is determined by the leaf size, shape, and shade of green. The larger the leaves, and the darker they are, the courser the leaf texture, while small, delicately shaped leaves of brighter color, create a fine texture. It may be counter-intuitive, but the leaves’ color should take priority over that of the flowers! Similarly, the color and texture of the bark, is more significant over the 12 months of the year, than the ephemeral display of the tree’s blooms.

Flowers and Decorative Fruit

The starting point for the naďve and inexperienced, is the last port of call for the professional designer. It is not that flower color is unimportant; on the contrary, it could be the icing on the cake, or the little dash of basil and oregano that makes all the difference to the pasta sauce. It is simply, the last aspect to consider in the process of choosing a tree for the garden. Don’t forget that some of the most satisfying landscape trees, such as Oaks and Ashes, are entirely lacking in showy, colorful flowers.

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My name is Jonathan Ya'akobi.I've been gardening in a professional capacity since 1984.I am the former head gardener of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, but now concentrate on building gardens for private home owners.I also teach horticulture to students on training courses.I'd love to help you get the very best from your garden,so you're welcome to visit me on http://www.dryclimategardening.comor contact me at

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