Tree placement / front door

gmb_ma(z6)July 7, 2007

Can a tree planted directly in front of a front door ever be a good thing?

My house is a large colonial with plenty of frontage and setback from the street. Viewed from the street, the driveway is on the right with a sidewalk going from the driveway to the front door. I have a large bed in front of the sidewalk that is currently anchored with an Arnold Promise witchhazel and Donald Wyman crabapple.

A third tree could be placed in that island to create a dog-leg tree location pattern which would generally follow the shape of the sidewalk. My tree of choice would be a paperbark maple. Distances seem good - the paperbark maple would be about 10 feet from the sidewalk, about 20-25 feet from the house and eighteen feet from the crabapple with a perfect interior viewing location of the paperbark maple from the study. From what I can mentally visualize, the exterior views from around the property seem strong as well. The home/property can easily accomodate the visual mass of such an arrangement. So far so good except for the fact the paperbark maple would end up directly in front of the front door.

Is this location a deal breaker? Will I be cited by the feng shui police? Can a tree planted directly in front of a front door ever be a good thing?

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I assume that you are planning on using a clump-type birch, not one with a single trunk. If the bottom branches are trimmed up so one can look through the trunks from the road this choice could work well with your present plantings. Just remember that paper birch is prone to borers and will need a treatment of systemic insecticide every year at the base.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 12:45PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Paperbark maple - Acer griseum? Maybe not birch, but maybe can be clumping in either case. important is the view from/to the street? I'd find it an irritant from either direction, but would you?

Can you extend the bed to put the tree a little further over? Or can the tree go outside the bed?


    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 3:58PM
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Sorry about my answer above. Had just come in from dealing with a horrific accident in front of our house. Guess it had me more rattled than I realized. Moral of the belts saved a family's life plus Lexus engineering as the vehicle rolled five times.

Now, to your question. Paper bark maple is a well behaved slow grower usually with a single trunk. One of my favorites. In the situation you described I just see it as a 'blob' in your planting bed. Really think that a small, open, multiple trunked tree, perhaps a Cercis canadensis. A form such as this 'welcomes' rather than just occupying space.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 8:16PM
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Thank you for the responses.

karinl - I would have expected to be irrated too but yet when I imagine the view of a small tree from several interior and exterior locations I am not bothered. I'm still puzzled as to why this composition seems to work in my mind's eye and would like to understand better before moving forward. It could possibly be the geometry of the house front facade which has two jogs in it or the fact that the house is not quite parallel to the street. I think something is altering what normally might be expected. Will try (and learn how) to post some pics. Looking to plant in the fall so I still have some time.

nandina - Interesting comment about form and the preference for a multiple trunked tree. I had not considered that. I think a Cercis canadensis would be pushing it from a space standpoint and I am also trying to develop a "winter interest" and exfoliating bark theme throughout the landscape. Familiar with a heptacodium? If so, would you consider that a welcoming form? (Re paperbark maple: saw one this spring at a nursery and it stopped me in my tracks. Trying frantically to incorporate one for winter viewing!)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 6:58AM
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gmb, your property sounds lovely. Could you please post some pics of the area you're proposing adding the paperbark?

I see absolutely no problem with the tree being just in front of the door. In fact, it's a great idea. It will soften your view of the asphalt street. I'm working to do that on my property.

Let us know what you decide and really hope to see exactly where you want this. Perhaps place a shovel in the ground showing us.

Rosie in Sugar Hill, GA

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 11:27AM
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The front door with yellow flag showing proposed tree placement:

Another view better depicting jogs in the front facade:

View depicting "dog-leg" characteristic. The proposed expanded island would more closely mirror sidewalk shape:

Close-up pic (study is behind the windows to the left of the big flag):

To restate the question: could a (small) tree placed at the yellow flag position directly in front of the front door be considered a reasonable (or even a desirable) design choice? Why or why not?

I have further developed some of my own thoughts on this but I am more interested in hearing from the forum at this point.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 8:47PM
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giboosi_alttara(z6 CT)

Total aside from the design question, but Acer griseum doesn't like fall planting.

I adore mine, but it was root pruned from B&B in the fall for spring planting, as per the expert recommendations.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 11:44PM
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Thanks giboosi, that's good to know.

One option I am considering is to put something a tad smaller with a more interesting shape (Heptacodium miconioides perhaps) where the yellow flag is and then transplant the crabapple and replace with an Acer griseum. Sounds like the transplanting and the paperbark maple planting would be better next spring if I go that route.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 6:47AM
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giboosi_alttara(z6 CT)

Heptacodium, with it's naturally multi-trunked shape, might work better in that spot, however be aware the you will have to prune it to maintain a tree-like form, or else you will have dense leaves to the ground.

I've pruned mine to a double trunk, but have new sprouts coming up, which I will leave if they stay upright as they age.

I think having the Heptacodium and Acer griseum in the same line of sight would be fabulous, with the complimentary bark colors.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 8:41AM
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giboosi_alttara(z6 CT)

Oh, a plus is the excellent growth rate on the Heptacodium, which easily put on 3' a year for me. My griseum has been very slow.

So... where can you fit in a Stewartia?! You need one to add to your exfoliating bark theme!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 8:44AM
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... just planted a stewartia last year ancoring the left front of the house :)

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 1:12PM
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giboosi_alttara(z6 CT)

Ok... how about Parrotia, then?


    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 1:49PM
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Frankly, I would fugedaboud a tree in this location, because the front of the house is so nice and why block it?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 4:54PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I'm still wondering why you have fixated on that spot, given how much other space you have. Is it the echo of shaping the bed after the walkway? Is that really important?


    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 7:15PM
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Giboosi - Never heard of Parrotia but my quick google search was interesting. Thanks for mentioning it!

gary mn - point taken.

KarinL - Good question. Expanding the island bed to echo the shape of the sidewalk seems to make good sense to me. I am particularly drawn to the resultant grass "pathway" that would emerge between the two spaces. I realize one could expand the bed in that fashion but refrain from adding a small tree at the yellow flag location and that is still an option I am considering.

What has me most fixated on adding a small tree in the manner described is (in no particular order):

1) to better define the dog-leg shape by using three trees.

2) to enhance views of the landscape from the interior, especially during winter, due to the closer proximity of a desired specimen tree.

3) to try and soften the size/height of the front facade, especially as viewed from the street which is further exacerbated by the generally downward slope of the front yard.

4) to add some curbside intrigue by intentionally obscuring the front entranceway from some (but not all) vantage points.

Still undecided, though. Thanks for posing the question and allowing my to gather my thoughts.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 10:04PM
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