Monday, 29 July 2013

Tree envy

When you're a homeowner, you're never really finished working on your home. There's always another project, another reno, another improvement, another room you want to redecorate or fixtures you want to update or shelves you want to restyle or chair you want to replace. And that's half the fun of home ownership.

We have an endless list. In the two years we've lived here we've replaced all the flooring, redone all the stairs and railings, painted every wall in the house, replaced all the light fixtures and most of the appliances, gutted and re-done one of the three bathrooms, landscaped both the front and back yards, installed a stone walkway in the front and a two-storey deck in the back, and decorated and redecorated to our hearts' content. (Whew!) Still on the list for the next year are a new counter and bar in the kitchen and new iron railings and stone for our front steps. But my biggest home obsession lately?


We need more trees.

I love our neighbourhood, our yard and our house and would never want to live anywhere else. But one of the drawbacks of living in a new-ish neighbourhood is the distinct lack of mature trees.

Our home and our neighbourhood are about fifteen years old, so the streetside trees - planted by the builder when the homes were first built - are full and mature. The streets are lush and green and leaf-covered as you drive through the neighbourhood. The view from our kitchen window is a bower of branches and berries and greens. But the backyard? Not so much.

I don't know why the previous owner never planted any trees. I don't know why any of the previous owners in our little row of townhouses never planted any trees. If they had planted just a couple of teeny-tiny garden centre maples when the fences first went up we'd have a gorgeous cover of greens back there by now. But we do not.

When we moved in, our backyard consisted of a big deck and some grass. And that's about it. Our home backs on to a big park - which, yes, does have a lot of big, beautiful trees - and we wouldn't want to completely block that view with large planting. But we would like a bit of a leafy screen for privacy, particularly now that we've built a second story deck well above the fence height.

landscaping, gardening, trees, shrubs, flowers, Japanese maple,
Back garden
Trees, unfortunately, are very expensive. Very expensive. And they take an awfully long time to grow. So we've started slowly. Last year we planted a big garden in the back corner of the yard with huge, fast-growing shrubs - after a second summer's growth they've already filled out the space and grown taller than the fence. This past spring we planted a teeny-tiny Japanese Maple - laughably small, but it'll be pretty in a few years - and a couple of twelve-foot columnar oaks, still not large enough to qualify as mature trees but tall enough that they're visible from our second-story windows and starting to frame out our yard with some foliage. Next spring we'll plant another one or two of the oaks - we really like them, and their tall, narrow, fast growth is ideal for a townhouse yard. We also plan to put in a bunch of cedars to layer and soften the hard corners of the yard.

Our biggest dilemma is what to plant in the back corner of the yard opposite the garden. That is the corner where I think we really need a great big full leafy tree with a huge canopy. Great big full trees with huge canopies cost about a zillion dollars, so whatever we do invest in, there will only be one of them. The problem is that the particular corner of the yard where I want to install this enormous tree is also where our gate to the park is - so the tree needs to be tall enough that we can walk beneath the canopy, it needs to be planted close enough to the side fence to allow a path to the gate, and the full canopy needs not to spread too far into the neighbour's yard so they won't be tempted to cut it all back.

Green Pillar Oak
Columnar Oak
Autumn Blaze Maple
London Plane Sycamore

So we need a ten to twelve year old tree local to this climate with a narrow root base, a dense, upward-growing canopy that starts at five or six feet off the ground - and ideally with a variation in foliage colour from everything else we've already planted. Oh, and it needs to be affordable.

Kind of a tall order.

So, lately, I find myself obsessed with trees. Walking through the neighbourhood, driving around town, watching home improvement shows on tv - all I see is trees. I have tree envy.

(That's a nice tree - I wonder what it looks like in the spring? I like the shape of that tree - would it fit in our yard? How long did it take to grow to that size? That tree's a pretty colour - what kind is it? Is it local? Expensive?)

Trees are all I can think about. And even when we do find something and make a decision, we can't plant until the spring - so I have the better part of a year to keep obsessing.

You might also like...
My little townhome love
Backyard plans
A little stone, a lot more curb appeal
diy, home improvement, landscaping, interlocking stone, retaining wall


  1. I know, right? I drove past a great big one in full colour around the corner yesterday...GORGEOUS!