LIFE IS BETTER with trees.
For nearly 150 years, April has been the month when people celebrate trees and the many benefits they provide, like casting cool shade and producing canopies of blossoms — and, let’s not forget, fruit!
From a design perspective, trees in the landscape fill the space above our gardens, adding a durable element that provides structure, height and longevity to what might otherwise be a fairly flat composition.
Towering above our heads, tree limbs provide shelter for our homes and the wildlife that lives alongside us, a bridge between the domestic and the untethered, like the other day when I looked up from tending my garden to watch an eagle soaring above its nest in the neighboring greenbelt.
Seattle is graced with a venerable urban canopy. Trees define the character of our neighborhoods, from leaning stands of native Pacific madrone that line the bluff in Magnolia to numerous bigleaf maples over Capitol Hill and remnant forests of conifers in parks all over our city.
But trees offer much more than beauty, blossoms and habitat.
Every daylight hour, leaves are pumping out oxygen, freshening the air we breathe. Tree roots stabilize our hillsides, while their canopies absorb rainwater and help control seasonal storm water. Conifers are especially beneficial, with evergreen foliage that buffers the rainy season right when we need it the most.
But how we love our deciduous trees, as well. Cool, leafy shade lessens summer heat, while bare branches allow what little winter sun we get to flood through windows and warm our homes.
Trees for Seattle, a program of the City of Seattle, is dedicated to “growing and maintaining healthy, awe-inspiring trees.” The Trees for Seattle website (seattle.gov/trees) is filled with resources for tree planters and anyone who wants to pitch in to help preserve and restore our existing canopy. Download one of the neighborhood Tree Walk maps, and become a hometown tree tourist; there’s even an app for that, and it’ll help you hone your tree identification skills, too.
It’s easy to get excited about trees — especially in spring, when nurseries are stocked with tempting inventory. Let’s face it: Baby trees are adorable. But planting a tree in your landscape requires careful consideration. Trees for Seattle suggests you ponder the following questions before heading out to shop for a tree.
• Why are you planting a tree? Are you looking for spring blossoms, cool green shade or a privacy screen from a busy street? With so many trees to choose from, it helps to define your intent and narrow your scope.
• How much space do you have? This is a biggie. Save yourself future work, expense and headache by realistically assessing your landscape and determining how a tree might impact surrounding structures, like your house, the neighbor’s garage and fences. Don’t forget to factor in overhead — and underground — utilities. Sewers are expensive; just ask me.
• You won’t need a permit to plant on personal property, but you will need to secure a planting permit for a street tree. Trees for Seattle can direct you on that and might even be able to offer you free trees through its Trees for Neighborhoods program.
Once you do your homework, the fun begins. It’s time to select the perfect tree that will meet your expectations and flourish in the available space on your property. Once again, Trees for Seattle is an excellent resource for helping you select the right tree for the right place.
Planting trees is important. So, it’s well worth getting it right — not just for today, but for generations to come.