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Everything You Need to Know About Trees

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Everything You Need to Know About Trees

December 21, 2017

Trees are focal points in a landscape and have many uses: to define a space, hide something unattractive, add privacy, and provide relief—such as shade or a windbreak—from the elements.

Use our brand-new field guide, Trees 101, to learn everything you need to know about our favorite trees. Whether you’re designing a landscape from scratch or planting a single specimen tree to add curb appeal, our guide offers tips on when (or if) to expect a particular tree to bloom, what size it will reach at maturity, how much water it needs, its average lifespan, and whether it’s evergreen or deciduous.

Trees 101 is part of our new Garden Design 101 section, offering design tips and practical advice on Hardscape 101 topics as well as growing guides for Shrubs, Perennials, Vines & Climbers, Tropical Plants, Edibles, Succulents & CactiBulbs & Tubers, Annuals, Grasses, and Houseplants.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll find in our Trees 101 guide:

Oak Trees

Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

With a graceful spreading canopy, exceptionally hard wood, and an inescapable air of dominance, an oak is what most kindergarteners draw when someone says “tree.” With more than 600 known types, the oak is a leader of trees, a symbol of strength and endurance, and a generous host. See more in our Oaks Field Guide.

Hornbeam Trees

In a Brooklyn backyard, a row of small hornbeam trees (Carpinus caroliniana) are pruned tightly to create a flat screen against a fence. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista. See more of this projectin in our new Gardenista book.
Above: In a Brooklyn backyard, a row of small hornbeam trees (Carpinus caroliniana) are pruned tightly to create a flat screen against a fence. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista. See more of this projectin in our new Gardenista book.

In plant classifications, the hornbeam tree is often mistaken for a shrub, though in fact it belongs to the same family as the hazelnut tree and yields wrinkly brown nuts, which are not edible. See more about hornbeam’s dozen species in our Hornbeams Field Guide.

Lemon Trees

Photograph by Tom Kubik for Gardenista.
Above: Photograph by Tom Kubik for Gardenista.

Lemon trees are grateful sun worshippers. Give them at least eight hours a day, preferably with some humidity, and they’ll (eventually) reward you aplenty. Lemon trees thrive in a container, a good option for those outside USDA growing zones 9-11. See more in our Lemon Trees Field Guide.

Birch Trees

On New York City&#8\2\17;s High Line park, a leafy glade of gray birches and ferns is only a short distance above the crowds of museum goers at the Whitney Museum and the noisy commercial traffic on Washington Street. Photograph courtesy of Timber Press. See more at Required Reading: Gardens of the High Line.
Above: On New York City’s High Line park, a leafy glade of gray birches and ferns is only a short distance above the crowds of museum goers at the Whitney Museum and the noisy commercial traffic on Washington Street. Photograph courtesy of Timber Press. See more at Required Reading: Gardens of the High Line.

Birch is a handsome opportunist that springs up in neglected places even as its beautiful, textured bark makes it a favorite of designers in search of an ornamental tree that grows to a height of about 40 feet. Birch likes a well-drained, moist spot with protection from harsh summer heat. See more in our Birches Field Guide.

Yew Trees

Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

For gardeners, yew is a magical tree, unbeatable for topiary, providing a garden with a sense of dignity and intrigue. Yew can be trained as an evergreen tree or shrub and is happiest in USDA growing zones 6-10. See more in our Yews Field Guide.

N.B.: Explore more of our new Garden Design 101 guides:

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