Trees and shrubs need to be in place before you start to fill the border with smaller plants. Your first consideration should be height. A tree that is too tall disrupts the garden’s balance and may block the light. To help you choose, reference books and nursery catalogs indicate a tree’s height at maturity and also after five years, which will give you a good idea of how quickly it grows.
Shape and spread are important factors, too. Some trees, such as Cupressus sempervirens “Swane’s Gold”, which grows to 13ft (3.9 m) are nearly columnar; others, such as Carpinus betulus “Fastigiata” – 10 ft (3 m) after 20 years – are conical. The Indian bean tree is nearly as wide as it is tall, as is Styrax japonicas.
Once you have considered these factors and narrowed the choice, flowers, fruit, bark, and fall leaf color can all influence your decision about which tree or shrub to incorporate into your border design.
LIT FROM BEHIND
RIGHT: Low fall sunshine suffuses the leaves of Corylus maxima “Purpurea” with an extra burst of color and throws the veining into sharp relief.
A PATCHWORK OF COLORS
LEFT: Large trees such as oak and blue cedar, filled in with shrubs including spiraea and berberis, illustrate the enormous variation in color, shape, and size of trees and shrubs.
BELOW: Magnolias bear their candle-flame flowers early in the year. The blooms are vulnerable to frost, but it is a risk well worth taking for this florious display.