As lucky as we are to live in Ontario, the home of the Boreal Forest, we tend to take trees for granted. After the hundredth time driving or walking past the trees in our neighbourhood, most of us stop noticing them altogether.
Yet, the value of mature trees cannot be overstated. Our lives are inextricably entwined. They provide us with oxygen, stable ground, shelter, and sometimes even food. They stand strong all year round, dutifully purifying the air we’ve soiled and replacing it with the air we breathe. Their burned branches have allowed us to cook over fire for millennia. They’re why we hike, why we camp, and why we buy cabins.
We truly owe our lives to the trees, and it’s only fair that we honour them. The best way to do that is to plant more on your property. Here are a few of the many reasons to include more trees in your landscape.
Benefits for Your Landscape
Planting trees for landscaping purposes is one of my favourite things about the work we do at Royal City Nursery. The more I’ve gotten to know the different tree species over the years, the more profoundly I’ve appreciated their power to transform a space.
There are so many benefits to planting trees in your yard, so let’s start with the seasons. One of the first rules of landscape design is that the design should look beautiful at any time of year.
More so than your perennials, trees allow your landscape design to look beautiful all year round. Trees are some of the first things to awaken in the spring, as their buds become flowers and foliage. By the summer, they’ve grown lush with leaves and have started bearing berries or fruit. Once fall comes around, the trees put on a grand finale before the season ends. The sight of a maple tree in the middle of October is one of life’s true pleasures.
Once the winter arrives, most of our plants have expired or turned in for the season. Not the trees! While their leaves may have fallen, their exquisite branch systems remain. I love the look of a bare deciduous tree covered in frost, or a stately evergreen blanketed in snow. Or consider dogwoods or hollies, which leave behind colourful stems and berries through the winter.
When it comes to landscaping, the shape and size of a tree are just as important as its colours. Like all forms of design, landscape design relies on blending objects in complementary proportions. You can find a tree for any purpose. An oak can fill a large empty space, or a row of slender arborvitae can create an elegant hedge along your fence. A mid-sized, ornamental tree can instantly become the focal point of your backyard.
Benefits for Your Household
Of course, there are many more reasons to plant trees in your backyard than to fill a space. The advantages of trees in your landscape extend to your daily life.
Trees have real benefits for your bank account. A West-facing mature deciduous tree can lower your energy bill in the summer by keeping your home in the cool shade. Their leaves also trap air pollution that would otherwise end up in our lungs.
In the winter, once the leaves have gone, the sunlight can filter through the bare branches while the structure of the tree creates a natural wind shelter. That means a mature tree will save you money on utilities all year!
Money aside, your landscape trees have major benefits for your well-being. They create a backyard privacy barrier, shielding your home from prying eyes and blocking the sounds of your urban surroundings.
Your mental health benefits from the mere sight of a tree. Sitting near a tree, relaxing under its canopy, or admiring its branches creates an instant feeling of relaxation and peacefulness.
Benefits for Your Community
As you probably know, trees live for a long time. The trees you plant in your yard today may be around for several generations and many homeowners to come, but do trees increase home value?
Overwhelmingly, yes. In addition to the household benefits, they also improve the perception of your entire community. Trees add character to neighbourhoods and give your street that warm, homey feeling. A mature tree adds an average of 10% to the value of the property.
Trees also add to the biodiversity of an area. They provide food and shelter for tons of natural wildlife. They also make a pretty good habitat for kids—who doesn’t have fond memories of a childhood treehouse or tire swing?
Benefits for the Planet
We’re not the only beneficiaries of the great things our trees do for us. The planet as a whole needs trees to keep the world together. The root systems of trees keep soil intact and prevent erosion. They keep sediment and other nasties from entering our potable water sources.
Finally, they give us something we can never be without. Over the course of a year, an acre of forest produces enough oxygen to meet the needs of 18 people. It also takes an acre of forest one year to absorb the carbon monoxide your car produces after driving 26,000 miles. That’s something to think about.
The world can’t have enough trees, and with the Amazon rainforest disappearing more every day, one could argue we don’t have enough. While the City of Guelph may never rival the Amazon in biodiversity, we can do our part by planting our own little piece of forest at home.