Woody ornamental plants, including trees and shrubs, form the basic framework of a landscape. Their form provides structure and accent. Some have striking features and serve as specimen plants. Others blend in, such as shrubs in a hedgerow. Evergreens provide year round screening, while deciduous types drop their foliage. Even without leaves, some types are quite ornamental in the dormant season and bring interesting structural elements with their bare trunks and branches. Blooming trees and shrubs offer an additional bonus feature.
Shrubs come in many shapes and sizes. Keep in mind the intended purpose and space available when choosing shrubs. Far too many large shrubs are planted beneath windows or alongside a walkway only to take over or be mercilessly hacked on a regular basis to keep them in bounds. There are many dwarf species and varieties to choose from for such settings.
Trees, likewise, come in various shapes and sizes. Choose one to fit your soil, climate and the space available. It makes no sense to plant a giant live oak in today’s typically small backyard. While it may look great for a few years, it will eventually shade out everything (including your neighbor’s property), leaving only hardscapes and monkeygrass to survive in its dense shadow. We have several great small trees that are well suited to today’s smaller lot sizes.
The most common mistake in planting a tree is to choose one of the common fast-growing species. Arizona ash is example #1, as these trees grow fast and soon become a nuisance with surface roots, dropping limbs, and various disease problems. It is much better to plant a long-lived, adapted species. With a little extra water and nutrients in the first 5 to 10 years, it can quickly reach a respectable size. Trees are a long term investment. Invest in something that will keep increasing in beauty and value, even 50 years down the line.