This is a guest post from Craig at everythingbackyard.net
Trees are an integral part of any residential landscape and contribute to the design, aesthetics, and ecology of thoughtful backyard spaces. Whether your preference is for deciduous trees with dramatic seasonal foliage or hardy evergreen trees that provide shade year-round, there are many benefits of plantings trees in your backyard.
Planting trees alongside the sunniest sides of your home will dramatically reduce the amount of solar gain your house receives during warmer months, which in turn will reduce interior temperatures and the need for air conditioning. Trees also cool the surrounding air through a process called evapotranspiration, which releases moisture into the air.
In cooler climates, tree canopy can provide a windbreak and will reduce drafts. Deciduous trees are ideal for a varied climate with hot summers and cool winters, as the tree will drop its foliage during winter months, allowing maximum sunlight exposure to warm your home.
Selecting the appropriate species of tree can contribute to backyard privacy and screening of neighboring properties. This includes visual screening as well as providing a noise buffer.
Ideal tree species for screening include evergreen trees with dense foliage, such as the fern pine (Podocarpus gracilior) or Japanese loquat (Eriobotrya japonica).
Trees are often overlooked by homeowners looking to add a bit of color to their outdoor space, with many people opting for annuals to add showy hues to their garden. Many tree species offer striking autumnal foliage in shades of fiery oranges, deep reds, and golden yellows.
The sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) put on an attractive display in the fall before dropping their foliage for the winter. Numerous tree species also bloom throughout the year; the Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana) has fragrant fuchsia flowers that open from fall to mid spring, and the crape myrtle tree (Lagerstroemia indica) produces bold voluminous plumes of white, red, pink, and purple flowers in the summer and autumn seasons.
A tree's canopy can form a natural extension of living space within your backyard. Apart from making it more enjoyable to sit outside during warm summers, shade cast from trees can reduce the cost of irrigation by decreasing evaporation rates in surrounding plants and soil.
The appropriate shade tree can transform even the smallest of outdoor spaces. When planting in a narrow planting area or small backyard, look for trees that aren’t known to have aggressive roots to avoid damage to your foundation. Patio trees such as eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) and Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) are ideal for a compact backyard as they are smaller in size and don’t pose root problems.
Local food advocates will tell you that there’s nothing better than eating a piece of fruit straight off the tree. Bring a bit of the farm to your backyard by planting a crop-producing tree.
Citrus trees are a popular choice amongst home gardeners due to the abundance of fruit produced as well as attractive foliage. A persimmon tree can also be a wise choice due to the range of varieties available to suit most American climates and soil types.
The movement towards more eco-friendly urban areas has led to the creation of many greenbelts and nature reserves. Planting a tree in your backyard can help contribute to the local ecosystem by providing habitat for birds, insects, and squirrels. Trees that produce a flowery bloom with also attract bees and other pollinators..
Invite biodiversity into your backyard by planting trees that provide pollen and nectar; southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) and crabapple (Malus spp.) are particularly attractive tree species for bees due to their showy and fragrant blooms.
Apart from increasing biodiversity, trees play a significant role in other ecological functions such as carbon sequestration. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. High levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are known to exacerbate the effects of climate change. Planting trees helps offset some of the carbon dioxide produced in any given area.
Additionally, trees help alleviate the urban heat island effect. In urban areas with a high proportion of uncovered paved areas and buildings, warm temperatures tend to be made even more extreme in the absence of a robust tree canopy. By casting shade and releasing water through evapotranspiration, trees make developed areas more livable and less prone to extreme temperatures.
Apart from saving you money on heating and cooling, trees have an added economical advantage of increasing property values. Numerous studies have shown that trees can increase property values up to 15% due to the understood benefits of a mature tree canopy. Real estate buyers are drawn to the shade, air quality improvements, and general character that mature trees give to a property.
The benefits of planting trees in your backyard include a range of environmental, economical, and aesthetic advantages. Trees make the world a more livable space, and come in sizes and shapes to suit the constraints of every property. Don’t forget to consider things like climate, sun exposure, and soils when selecting the ideal tree for your backyard.
One of the best ways to truly enjoy being outdoors in winter is to do something that you can’t do any other season. You’ll come to appreciate winter for its unique offerings, rather than just viewing it as “several months of freezing cold torture.”