Where should I put an ornamental tree?

atmoscatAugust 5, 2014

Hi all, I posted a while back about screening plants for the back of my yard. Now I have a new project (new house (to us), lots of landscaping projects underway.) I was at a garden store today, and saw a great deal on a tree I've been coveting, a 'The Rising Sun' redbud. The question is, where should I put it, or, if there's no good spot now, should I just wait? I have read that redbuds don't like being moved, so I'd like to make sure I put it in the right place.

The pic below is a composite of the back of my house (trying to follow the picture guidelines - sorry, not sure why the middle part turned out so dark.) The back facade is pretty tall, and I feel like it could use some taller plantings somewhere, but I'm not exactly sure where. The two spots I have in mind for the redbud are either at the far right corner between the bay window and the porch, or at the far left, between the little door in the barn foundation and the window.

I would consider putting it at the front corner of the barn, except that the long term plan is to build a retaining wall there that would extend along the existing driveway so that we can get rid of the big bump in the grade at the barn door (hatched area on photo). So, anything I plant there would have to be moved later. (Part of the long term plan is also to move the parking over to the right side so there won't be cars blocking the way from the patio to the yard.)

I would love to get your suggestions for an overall scheme for the back or even a sketch, so I can get an idea of where a tree might be needed. (I also plan to put climbers on trellises for height around the patio area.)

The depth of the bed on the right side of the house is 9'. The redbud is supposed to reach 10-12' H x 10-15' W, so maybe there's not enough space. That spot gets afternoon sun. The spot in front of the barn has plenty of space but I don't think it gets as much sun.


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Here's another shot that gives a better view of the patio area. Sorry they're a bit dark. I wanted to get the post up today. I can take more pictures tomorrow with better lighting if needed.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:44PM
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The two best places seem to be in the vicinity of the yellow circles (getting the tree out of direct sight line of nearest window areas.) If you think the better place is near the barn, plan the retaining wall to allow for the tree. Plant the tree at the correct elevation (as it will be after the wall is built.) Then it won't need to be relocated. In the plan, of course, the wall would be such that its construction can occur without destroying the tree. (Not too close to each other.)

"...sorry, not sure why the middle part turned out so dark." .... uuuuh .... maybe it's getting close to sunset? :-) Otherwise, a pretty good attempt to show an area ... better than average!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 1:46PM
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Ha! You are right of course that the pictures are dark because it was near sunset. I figured out that much, but was puzzled that the middle section turned out so much darker. In any case, it was a question of bad and worse, so a slightly better picture is below.

If I put the tree in the area that won't be regraded, it would have to be closer to the back/left corner of the barn (see pic). I'm not sure that makes sense in terms of what the overall best design would be. If the best spot is at the front corner, then I should just wait on the tree.

Could you (or anyone) give me an idea what you would do for an overall scheme, if there were no restrictions? I'm having a having a hard time visualizing what this facade needs. For instance, you also suggested the spot between the patio and the bay window. Do I need something tall there too? I was thinking the other side of the bay next to the porch, but maybe that spot's too narrow? Once I have some suggestions for where various forms should go, I can see whether the tree fits into any of them or not. Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:43PM
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By the way, here's another shot from further back in the yard showing there's already a small tree on the left side. It's about 30-40 ft back from the barn. This might affect suggested placement closer to the house.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:49PM
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It looks like you already have a tree form off the corner of the barn. I can't see room for another unless you were to make an exchange and remove the existing one.

I am not suggesting enclosing the driveway on the lawn side, but there is space there for a semi-circular island opposite the relatively blank space of the house (area without windows).

If you're asking how the area between house and drive could be replanted (overall scheme?) ... it can't be seen in detail in the existing pictures, which are too far away and too dark.

Also, I would be working now (meaning starting 5 years ago) on structuring and shaping that lawn tree that appeared in the last picture. A tree in that position needs a canopy raised to maintain a view beyond. (The crooked trunk that breaks into a multi-trunk 4' off the ground should have been prevented long ago, but there is nothing that can be done about it now.) Raise the canopy by removing lower limbs.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 10:28AM
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Thanks, Yardvaark, for your response. The lawn tree that's there is a Carolina silverbell. I thought it got to be 15-25 ft or so, but I just looked it up and it's more like 30-40. Yikes! I don't know how long that one's been there, but it's got to be at least 10 years. We just moved in 2 years ago, so I can't be held responsible for the bad pruning (or lack thereof). I did some this past spring (mainly to remove crossing branches, etc.) but I thought it was a smaller tree so I didn't try to raise the canopy. I can work on that, though I might have to get some professional help 'cause I don't want to mess it up. It also needs pruning on top where I can't reach.

Especially given how big it could get, I think you're right there isn't really space for another tree on the barn side. I don't want the plantings to start looking too crowded.

Your idea for next to the driveway is an interesting one. I thought it might work, but when the hardscaping is redone, that will be part of the new parking area. (A plan is below.) It looks like I will just have to wait on the redbud, unless I can fit it into the bed next to the house - too bad, it's a really good deal!

I guess I was also asking for suggestions for the foundation bed. I just don't have a good sense of what to do there. (The bulkhead and off center bay window don't help.) I'll put a closer-up shot of the area in the next post. Right now, it's my 'holding bed' for a lot of perennials I moved from elsewhere. The scraggly rugosa rose at the right corner of the patio is going to get moved in the fall. I am trying to rejuvenate the (also scraggly) boxwoods along the back, which were overcrowded in their previous location. So basically nothing here is permanent. The bed is about 9-10 ft deep. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 1:21PM
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Here's a closer-up view of the beds along the back of the house.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 1:23PM
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Wondering why you didn't show that plan in the beginning as it would have gotten us to the point much earlier ....? Not sure I understand the drawing completely. I see flagstone with circles superimposed over it ... as if there will be planting at the edge of flagstone. Planting there good idea, but the jagged edge seems too "creative". Looks spacious for 2 cars, but tight for three. Wondering where the third car (left in pic.) backs up.

The drawing may be only moderately helpful since "unknowns" plentiful.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:45PM
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Yeah, sorry, you make a good point. I guess I was trying to keep it simple. Of course, it never is.

Yes, you are right there's supposed to be a jagged edge to the stonework with small spaces to slip in some plants. I'm not really on board with that, along with some other details of the plan. I'm also not crazy about the planting layout, which is why I'm here looking for more help.

I'd like to keep a deeper planting bed along the barn and back sides of the patio, like you show in your sketch. I also really like the placement of the tall shrubs and general symmetry and feeling of coziness in what you put together. That's what I was looking for!! I will start looking for a multi-trunk shrub for those locations. Maybe even a redbud, though the ones I saw at the store were not multi-trunked.

I agree the parking area is tight for 3 cars. The original suggestion was to pave a much larger area, but I really want to keep the paving to a minimum. I want to be able to transition directly from the patio to the lawn, and also don't want to have cars parked in the line of sight from the house (to the extent possible). If there are three cars parked, the one on the left would probably have to back out. It's not perfect, but it's better than what we have currently. (If you have other ideas, let me know!)

Thanks for your help and bearing with me! I feel like I have some direction now. I appreciate it!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 11:01PM
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Turns out multi-stem redbuds are somewhat hard to find. A mail order nursery found this one for me. It is 'Merlot' (red in spring but faded now), supposed to get 12-15' tall and wide. Think this will work? Does it look like a good specimen? (They only have 1.)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 12:52AM
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If it's alive, of course there's a chance it will survive and prosper. But I'd get it in the ground ASAP. Sometimes, life in containers is difficult and plants have a hard time.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 9:26AM
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Hmmm, not a ringing endorsement. I could wait until spring if I'm likely to get a healthier plant then. Would that be preferable? I was also asking whether the form is correct. Thoughts?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 3:04PM
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It doesn't matter a whit about the form of such a tiny plant. You must completely create the form of the plant as it grows. Would work with what you have now. If it doesn't work out, then replace later.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 8:14PM
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Okay, I will give it a shot.
Thanks again for your help!!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 5:36PM
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