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Size And Shape Does Matter When Choosing Plants For Your Landscape Needs

by Tara Pena

When choosing trees and shrubs for your landscape needs, there is more to making the right selection than just appearance and hardiness zone. The mature size and form of your tree  or shrub can help you determine its purpose in your landscape design. However, you don't have to sacrifice beauty for functionality; there are many beautiful trees and shrubs in all shapes and sizes. 

Using Trees And Shrubs By Height

While almost any plant can pruned and trained kept a certain size, it is less work if you choose the appropriate size of tree or shrub for your location and landscape purpose. 

Low-growing shrubs are those that measure one foot or less tall at maturity. These low-growers are ideal to use as edging around a planting bed or pathway. Some attractive choices in low-growing shrubs include varieties of cotoneaster, Celtic pride, and wintercreeper. 

You can create hedges of different heights, depending on your needs. You can use small plants that grow 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall to direct traffic, because they are difficult to step across. Hedges can be taller, up to six feet, to provide privacy. However, the smaller shrubs you privacy without feeling like you are walled in. Some good choices for hedges that are not only attractive, but useful include boxwood, glossy abelia, and Japanese barberry. 

Taller trees and shrubs, those 8 feet or taller, make good specimen plantings, windbreaks, sound screens and provide added privacy. Larger trees also make good specimen plants for a large garden and backgrounds. Some good choices include hedge maple, Eastern redcedar, hedge maple and hawthorn. 

Using Tree And Shrubs By Shape

Trees and shrubs naturally grow into a certain shape. While you can direct most trees or shrubs to grow into a shape or form that differs from its natural one, it only creates more work for you. For this reasons, it's best to choose trees and shrubs that naturally grow into the form you want. 

  • Pyramidal forms grow into a neat pointed shape. Many conifers naturally take on pyramidal form and make good plant for an informal garden. 
  • Low-branching shrubs' lower branches reach, or nearly reach, the ground. Use this as a filler for low-maintenance areas.
  • Roundheaded trees and shrubs gives your landscape a causal appearance. These make excellent specimen plants. 
  • Prostrate trees and shrubs have branches that either grow horizontally or lie on the ground. Use these shrubs as ground covers and edging.
  • Columnar plants have branches that grow at an upward angle. These trees and shrubs are narrow and make a dramatic emphasis in the landscape.
  • Compact trees and shrubs have leaves that grow close together, giving the plant a dense appearance. These make good  privacy screens and living fences.
  • Open branching trees and shrubs have a visible framework that is easy to see through. These are best used as specimen plants. 
  • Weeping varieties have strong branches, but new twigs are weak and bend toward the ground. Use these as specimen plants to add a graceful or solemn touch to your landscape. 

A lot more goes into choosing trees for your landscape design than just appearance and growing conditions. If you want your trees and shrubs to serve a purpose and add just the right touch to your outdoor area, contact a local tree service (Darrel Emel's Tree Service) to help you choose just the right tree for your needs.