We all love a good tree. They define the character of a landscape; with seasonal colour, elegant form and by laying out the structure of a garden. More than this, they also provide our gardens, and cities, with a range of services.
Fruit, protection from the wind and habitat for wildlife are all great services that our trees provide us. In Summer however, a trees ability to cool its surrounds by casting shade and natural air conditioning (through the process of transpiration) is perhaps their greatest quality.
There are lots of studies that show that trees improve our communities too. Crime rate goes down with an increase in canopy cover. Health outcomes are improved when we have more leafy canopy. And having a thriving urban forest has links to better outcomes for local communities mental health.
With all this in mind, it is startling to realize that in the last decade there has been a decrease in the urban forest across Melbourne. Now more than ever, we need to be protecting the trees we have, and planting new trees keep our city livable.
But how big a tree and how many trees should one garden have? The answer? When it comes to trees, more is better.
To achieve heath and cooling outcomes, canopy cover should be 30%. So ideally 30% of a property should have some form of canopy cover.
With house sizes in many areas increasing, and in others the size of blocks decreasing, this can be too much to accommodate. In this case. it a matter of putting in as much as you can with the space you have left. This can often mean making sacrifices, such as having leaves drop into pools, reducing the size of your lawn or putting in decking around a tree. With trees giving us so much back, however, it is well worth the effort.
The best way to get more canopy cover in is to not think of trees as belonging to the boundaries of the property, but to pull them into the garden. This will mean you can sit under them, their shade will cool down more of the garden and it will make your space feel larger and more luxurious. By drawing your eye away from the boundary, breaking the garden up into multiple spaces and allowing glimpse further into the garden and beyond, trees trick the eye into thinking the garden is much larger than it really is.
Canopy cover can either be achieved through a large single specimen, or with multiple trees of different sizes. A large, single deciduous tree is not only the most cost effective way to increase canopy cover (buy one tree rather than multiple) but the lack of leaves in winter will let in the warming winter sun. Use Evergreen along the boundary where noise and privacy are an issue.
Power lines, easements, pipes and services and proximity to the house will dictate where you have space to plant a tree. Once you have decided on the spot, you can start to figure out how big a tree you can accommodate in your garden.
In a open, small space, you want a tree that will help to visually bed in your home, so aim for your tallest tree to grow higher than your roof line. Without taller trees, homes and gardens tend to feel exposed and unwelcoming. Having one or multiple large trees will give you somewhere to relax on a hot day, prevent hot winds from tearing through the garden, and are a welcome distraction from the sight of surrounding buildings. You can then layer in smaller trees to get to 30% canopy cover.
In larger garden, be bold and plant the largest tree you can manage in the landscape. This will not only give lots of habitat and help buffer the home from roaring wind, it will give the space a sense of grandeur. Nothing is more impressive than a large tree and it will give a garden real character. Trees are also reported to add to property value, so it is a wise investment planting a large tree.
If you want to be able to sit or pass underneath the canopy of a tree, as a general rule of thumb the tree will need to be at least 6m tall.
Here at The Tree Shop, trees are our passion. We carry an extensive range of trees of every size, shape and colour to suit any style of landscape. So if you are looking to enhance the greenness of your home, a visit to our nursery is a must!