The Best Trees for Northern Virginia Yards
Trees are not only beautiful, but functional components of landscapes.
Carefully curated and planted flowers, plants, and trees are the heart of any garden. Trees, in particular, can meet a variety of needs, including creating shade or privacy, serving as a focal point, and adding visual interest to a landscape design.
Even though trees make great additions to any landscape, not all varieties are well-suited for a particular site or climate. When working with a professional landscaper to select the right trees for your property, there are important considerations, including native species, as well as a tree’s size, shape, canopy and quality.
Choosing Native Varieties
Native plants naturally resist pests and diseases, in addition to requiring less water than non-native species. Northern Virginia is home to many native options that a landscape designer can incorporate into your yard, including:
- Downy serviceberry
- Eastern redbud
- Flowering dogwood
- Scarlet buckeye
- Sweetbay magnolia
- White fringetree
Tree Shape and Size
Understand a tree’s function before adding it to your landscape. A deciduous shade tree cools the home in the summer and allows the winter sun to warm the home once leaves are shed. An evergreen may provide a windbreak or privacy screen. Fruit trees may provide food, and flowering trees bring visual interest to a landscape.
Next, select the right form or shape to complement the intended function. Most shade trees have a spreading canopy on top of a much narrower trunk, so you’ll need enough space between other trees’ canopies for the new tree to grow. While a shade tree won’t impact ground-level views, many evergreens have branches all the way to the ground, which will affect your line of sight while enjoying your backyard.
When it comes to width, it’s important to select the right tree for the space. Instead of selecting a tree based on its size at the nursery, consider a tree’s size at maturity in order to avoid a variety that will overtake your yard or dwarf your home.
For shade trees, the canopy — the layer of leaves and branches that cover the ground when viewed from above — is one of the most important considerations. Do you prefer light shade, dappled shade, or dense shade? Will adding a large spot of shade change the way your outdoor space functions?
It’s also important to think about how a new tree’s canopy will combine with other elements in your yard, including canopies of adjacent trees and any nearby buildings or structures.
As with other landscape components, trees are an investment. It’s important to select high-quality specimens to maximize the health and function of your landscape.
A high-quality tree has:
- A straight trunk and well-spaced branches.
- A trunk free of wounds or damage.
- A root system where roots grow straight out from the trunk.
A low-quality tree has:
- Multiple stems that originate from the same point and branches that grow into each other.
- A trunk with wounds from handling or incorrect pruning.
- Damaged or overcrowded roots in an undersized ball or container.