By Luke Miller
Growing up in the Northeast, I took trees for granted. They were everywhere -- especially in the arboretum across the street from my boyhood home.
Then I took a road trip. Places such as the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert were amazing, yet somehow the absence of trees felt strange to me. I longed for the maples and pines of upstate New York.
While Nature certainly doesn’t intend for trees to grow everywhere, there are plenty of places that shouldn’t be without them.
Parks. The shade and ambience trees bring to public spaces is beyond measure. Without them, our cities wouldn’t just be less attractive, they’d be less livable. Here is a new downtown park in Des Moines. The quick-growing swamp white oaks have only been in the ground a few years, but they’re already shading the park benches.
Homesteads. Evergreens make an effective windbreak, diminishing winter winds and ultimately saving energy. Deciduous trees can shade a house in summer (cutting air conditioning bills) while letting warm sunlight through in winter. Aesthetically, trees help blend a home into the landscape -- and they make being outdoors that much nicer.
Retreats. One of my favorite spots in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden is a little reading nook nestled among the redbuds and oaks. It’s always pleasant beneath the canopy -- and up to 15 degrees cooler than in the sunlight.
Farms. Today’s outbuildings might not have the same charm as the beautiful wooden barns of days past. But these upright maples do their best to help the cause. They make a large structure less imposing and more attractive.
Backyards. I like my privacy, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. These arborvitae reach heights well beyond the legal limits of a stockade fence, which is really helpful when you’re trying to block the view from a neighbor’s second-story window. Plus, they do something fences can’t do -- provide nesting spaces for birds.
Libraries. This sweet gum tree makes a nice accessory for the Des Moines Public Library, especially with its reflection highlighted against the copper walls. Landscape architects know that carefully chosen trees have the structure and character to complement any building.
Cemeteries. Take it from a former gravedigger: Trees belong in cemeteries. The protected environment is perfect for slow-growing, long-lasting species such as bur oak and shagbark hickory, both of which can last for centuries. Seldom found in home landscapes, these species find a readymade home in these de facto arboretums.
Anywhere. Trees belong anywhere beauty is lacking. This Japanese maple in my backyard is small enough to plant near a chain-link fence, adding beauty where there was none before. It takes the partly shady conditions just fine, too. I wouldn’t want to be without it.
How about you? Where would you like to see a tree growing?
See more from this author.