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We often talk about incorporating trees in the home’s landscape and we are, for the most part, looking at the tree as part of a cohesive garden plan. The tree anchors the garden, is the foundation for the forthcoming garden and sets the tone for how the garden will evolve over time. But sometimes, when space permits, the tree can stand alone.

Drive along a country road and you will see a lone tree, out in a field or along an old fence row. Sometimes these trees are the survivors of a pest or disease that decimated a species but the tree’s isolation acted as a barrier, sparing the tree from death. Viewed from a distance, an Oak or Elm tree, on its own is stunning. It needs no garden, planned underplanting or mulch. It’s simply a tree set in a natural prairie, farm field or even a lawn. The English garden is noted for vast open spaces, rolling lawns, controlled lakes and ponds punctuated by carefully positioned trees. A gardenless landscape. And while there is very little that is natural about such a landscape it does offer us one wonderful advantage: the ability to see a tree, completely and on its own. It’s stunning.

In the traditional homeowner’s landscape, having that much room is a luxury. We should and still do plant large trees such as oaks and maples, often we cannot view them from afar as we would in the country. But, what we can do to create a landscaped focused on trees is plant smaller trees, such as dwarf conifers, Carolina Silver Bells and dogwoods. Select a tree that has a shape you admire as well as great bark and foliage- as the centerpiece, the tree has a lot of design weight to carry. Now, working with a designer, create a non-garden space.

For example, consider a long rectangular backyard, not that uncommon in the city. The perimeter is a raised bed made of stone walls and lushly planted. The remaining space is lawn with a single specimen tree planted, off center. The tree is now more than a tree, it’s a unique design feature, a sculptural element even. No mulch and no understory garden. Just a simple lawn. If a lawn is not to your liking, consider a sod path around the perimeter of our imagined raised stone garden bed, and the remaining space filled with pea gravel or if you prefer vegetation, epimedium. The tree is still a solitary design element, to be viewed without distraction.

Creating a gardenless landscape to highlight a tree is something we can create for you. Give us a call and one of our designers will work with you to create a design custom to your landscape.

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