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Putting Down Roots: Landscape with Trees Perfect for Your Home and Climate

Plants and trees can modify the climate and increase the comfort of your home.

| March/April 2001

  • Use this map adapted from Patti Rutman's illustration in The Wild Lawn Handbook by Stevie Daniels (Macmillan, 1995) to determine which trees on the Native Trees chart are appropriate for your home.
    Illustration By Susan Strawn Bailey

  • Photo By Paul Bosquet

  • Photo By Charles Mann

  • Photo By Paul Bosquet

  • Photo By Charles Mann

The presence of trees has been proven to hike real estate values. And while trees’ contribution to the aesthetic landscape is obvious, they are more than just pretty plants. Trees provide beauty, screen unsightly areas from view, ­filter dust, reduce noise, provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife, and sometimes produce fruit. And as a huge bonus for energy-conscious homeowners, they cool houses in summer and warm them in winter by providing shade and reducing wind velocity.

Before you plant trees or make changes to existing flora in your landscape, evaluate your site for solar orientation, areas of partial or full shade, direction of summer and winter winds and storms, and potential sites for windbreaks or solar collectors. Think about where the snow drifts in winter and where heat and glare reflect from buildings and paved surfaces. Find out the type and fertility level of your soil.

When deciding what trees to plant, consider growth rate, size at maturity, branching habit, root pattern, and whether the particular species produces flowers, fruit, or nuts.

A tree that reaches 35 feet at maturity is okay for an average city lot with a one-story house. Trees that reach 50 to 100 feet are too tall for a small house and are better choices for much larger yards of at least 1⁄4 acre (10,000 square feet).

Trees with shallow, fibrous root systems that branch out in many directions—as opposed to tap-rooted trees that send down one main root—can ­create problems by clogging sewer and water lines. Avoid planting elms, willows, poplars, and maples near drainage pipes.

Trees should be planted at least thirty feet from the house, and the distance between trees should be no closer than the limbs will reach at maturity. For instance, the distance between oaks should be about sixty feet, between lindens, about forty feet, between sugar or red maples, fifty feet.

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