Whether you’ve just purchased a new home or you’re sprucing up your current residence, one of the most dramatic long-term investments you’ll make is trees and large shrubs. The right trees not only beautify your property, they can make it more livable by providing shade from summer sun, creating a windbreak in an open area, or reducing soil erosion on a hillside. In crowded urban areas, properly sited trees can enhance privacy.
But in a rush to enjoy all the benefits that trees bring, homeowners sometimes purchase and plant trees without enough planning. Four years later they’re wondering why a now-giant tree is threatening their power lines — or a once-attractive tree is sadly drooping.
“You want to do some research before your start buying,” Jordan Blonski advises. An arborist and master gardener with Eastside Tree Works, Blonski’s job is to help people maintain large shrubs and trees. Sometimes he has to remove trees that are simply too tall or too wide for the yard.
“Trees absolutely love our Northwest climate,” Blonski says. “This means they’re going to get big. I tell people to take whatever the nursery says about the tree’s mature height and add 15 to 20 feet to that.”
Enjoy the beauty of maples and beeches
Japanese maples and their relatives the vine maples are perhaps the most beloved trees in the Pacific Northwest — and with good reason. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and leaf colors and most will provide year-round beauty. They range from the purple leaf maple, with lobed leaves that turn green-bronze in summer, to the delicate lace leaf maple and the pale-leafed first ghost maple.
“If you are looking for a tree that will look pretty even in the winter without its leaves, you want a Japanese maple,” Blonski says. “This is especially true if you get a coral bark maple.”
Another tree he recommends for its dramatic beauty is the weeping beech. It grows 30 to 50 feet tall, with branches that drape down to the ground in waterfall fashion. The weeping beech can be pruned to keep a narrow shape, making it a good tree for smaller yards, or for planting near a fence or house.
Taking care of cherries and apples
The cherry tree is another renowned Pacific Northwest beauty, but it’s fussy about where it can be planted. Blonski cautions that a cherry requires both full sun and well-drained soil. “Cherry trees don’t like having wet feet,” he says. “They’ll be susceptible to disease if you let the roots stay wet — which is why they often don’t do well in parking strips.”
While the thought of homegrown apples is appealing, a relatively fast-growing and hardy apple trees can overwhelm. “Unless you want to deal with hundreds of pounds of apples every fall, I’d avoid them,” Blonski says.
Trees for large yards
If you have a spacious yard, you can enjoy some of stunning conifers for which the Northwest is famous. “You can’t go wrong with a Douglas fir,” Blonski says.
The Western red cedar is another great choice, though it will need a bit of water in the dry summer months. Blonski also recommends giant sequoias — as long as you have plenty of room. He notes that in 20 years’ time one of these redwoods can easily be 120 feet tall and 50 feet wide.
If you are looking for a large deciduous tree, consider one of the European beeches. While relatively slow-growing, in the Pacific Northwest they can eventually reach 80 feet in height and 60 feet in width. Beeches come in both green- and purple-leafed varieties. Two other leafy trees Blonski suggests are the flowering hawthorns and the redbuds.
Trees for special spots
For planting near a patio, Blonski recommends deciduous trees. They’ll provide shade in summer but allow the area to get plenty of light in the fall and winter. That way you won’t end up with a patio covered in moss.
What to do if your in-city home has a narrow yard? To avoid overshadowing neighbors’ property, select a narrow trees. One possibility is the Alaskan yellow cedar, a tall, whimsically shaped evergreen with branches that appear to droop.
If you’re looking for a place to put a tree, don’t forget the planting strip between your sidewalk and the roadway. “Street trees” can add beauty and privacy to your front yard. Seattle and other municipalities have guidelines for street trees so they won’t interfere with utility lines, sidewalks and sewer lines. Blonski suggests planting ginkgos or katsuras, both slim, upright trees that are on Seattle’s Approved Tree list. “Katsuras need very little maintenance, just some pruning every five years or so,” he says. “They’ll give you awesome fall color.”
Eastside Tree Works has been providing commercial and residential tree services to Seattle and the Eastside area since 2005. From 24-hour emergency service to tree pruning or removal and stump grinding, Eastside Tree Works delivers professional workmanship at competitive rates.