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Article posted: 4/20/2013 1:00 AM

Art in the garden: Put trees first in design plans

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Flowers are usually the first thing folks consider when planning a new landscape, but trees should be at the top of their lists. Trees have the greatest visual impact and should be the first plants placed in a new landscape. As trees grow, they give a garden structure.

Trees add curb appeal and make a home seem established in its surroundings. Strategically placed trees can screen unwanted views.

They provide shelter from sun and wind giving gardeners the opportunity to grow a wider variety of plants. Leaf-filled branches create a habitat for shade-loving plants like hostas and ferns. Besides giving the landscape unique character and creating shade for other plants, there are many more reasons why trees should be the first elements of design plans.

Environmental benefits

Trees reduce runoff of rainwater in two ways. Their foliage disrupts the fall of raindrops, slows their descent and, as a result, reduces their impact on the soil below. Tree roots hold the soil so groundwater can be replenished and soil is not washed away.

The movement of a tree's branches and leaves offer pleasant, distracting 'white noise' in areas with unpleasant environmental noises.

Trees give off oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the air helping to fight global warming. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, "One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen -- enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people."

Economic benefits

A mature tree in a landscape has an appraised value of $1,000 to $10,000 according to the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.

The Arbor Day Foundation reports that landscaping that includes mature trees can add 10 to 20 percent more value to a property.

Trees that shade the south and west sides of a house reduce the cost of air conditioning in the summer. Evergreen trees planted to block cold winds in winter reduce heating costs in winter.

Wildlife benefits

Trees provide areas for nesting, shelter from weather, and sanctuary from predators. Many flowering trees offer food for songbirds. Some serve up delicious fruit that birds relish and devour early; others produce less appealing fruit that serves as late winter rations when they are hungry and less picky.

Health benefits

We need trees for our own good health. We all recognize the healthy benefits when we eat the fruits and nuts grown on trees. Herbalists rely on many species of trees to make herbal medicines.

Research has also shown that exposure to areas with trees helps us recover from stress within five minutes lowering our blood pressure and reducing muscle tension.

Let's all plant at least one tree in honor of Arbor Day on Friday, April 26. Do it for yourself and your children, for the birds and other wildlife, and for our planet.

Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040 or visit planterspalette.com.

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