The magic of trees

Patricia Hanbidge

“There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”‑‑ Minnie Aurmonier.

It is the trees in the landscape that make the garden. They provide a sense of scale, a structure with a great underlying sense of awe. After all, is there a garden without trees?

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When I travel, it is without doubt the trees that make the biggest impression. When we are at home, in our gardens and our familiar surroundings we often take the trees for granted – as part of the landscape. It takes leaving familiar surroundings to force us to open our eyes and to truly see what is in the landscape.

This article was inspired by a recent trip to the west coast where warmer weather and lots of moisture ensures the most majestic trees are grown. Not hampered by – 40 C, dry air or lack of moisture, the true giants are allowed to grow from the heart of the earth to the heavens. Walking through the fall leaves and enjoying the myriad of colour still on the trees in November is truly a great experience for a gardener. Gathering leaves that are larger than an oversized dinner plate and reverently pressing them to take home to show off to other prairie souls ensures the majesty of a tree has not been lost.

What do trees do in the landscape? They provide a scale that is actually the setting for the entire garden. Take a moment to look at the trees that surround your living space. There are some principles that can guide you when choosing new selections for your space.

Essentially, a tree should have a function in the landscape. This of course is true of each and every element in the landscape but it is the trees that are visible each and every month of the year thus giving them added importance. Functionally, a tree should provide shade, beauty, fruit, flowers and/or colour. They provide the bones of the scape so should in fact be chosen with great care.

Are they proportionate with your house or do they tower above? Believe it or not the trees around your home should be chosen for their mature size to be in scale with the rest of the landscape – including the house. Therefore, a bungalow should have trees that are smaller in stature than a larger and taller home and garden. In most cases this does not happen. Towering trees are the norm. But from the perspective of the landscaper, that is not actually desirable as huge trees around a small house actually make the house appear even smaller.

For those of us who live in a climate with four seasons and one of which is extremely long (this season is not summer), it is also important to choose trees that are attractive even when they are dormant. Get more landscape value by selecting trees with interesting bark, flowers, fruit that is retained so even in the dead of winter they have attractive features. When everything in the landscape is “shades of grey” a little bit of colour is hugely appreciatd.

So, even though it is November, take a moment to study the trees around you. Appreciate their value – in fact be awed by them! Learn about the trees that do best in our climate and look for interesting features. Next week look for an article on the best trees and shrubs with interesting features.

I hope you enjoy the magic of the trees around us.

Hanbidge is the Lead Horticulturist with Orchid Horticulture. Find us at; by email at; on facebook @orchidhort and on instagram at #orchidhort.

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