How Smart Tree Planning and Planting Helps New Developments and Established Neighborhoods
“The best friend on earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources of the earth.”
- Frank Lloyd Wright
One of the world’s best known architects and visionaries recognized long ago what modern studies now prove: trees greatly increase the appeal of any property – from new subdivisions to commercial centers, from offices to your own backyard.
Research shows that trees stimulate economic development. They help attract new business – even tourism. Retail areas with trees are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and land that is wooded is more valuable. Real estate appraisals of comparable houses with and without trees place a markedly higher value on those with yards sheltered by trees.
There’s little doubt that trees add beauty and visual excitement to urban and suburban settings. These areas would be harsh with square-edged structures and hard, paved surfaces without the softening presence of trees. Trees also enhance architectural designs, provide privacy and frame views. Varying textures and colors of foliage, flowers, bark and fruit create multiple seasons of interest.
Yet smart tree planning and planting does much more than beautify an area. It also serves many practical purposes.
For example, many people love the airy, open feeling lots of natural lighting gives interior spaces. But, if you’re designing/building homes and offices, glare on TV or computer screens is a worry. Go ahead and put in plenty of skylights and windows! Planting trees of correct mature size, shape and density in the proper places can help make unwanted reflections a non-issue.
A good part of smart planning also means being knowledgeable about tree growth rates, strength, brittleness, and root systems so when foundations, sidewalks, driveways, sewers, gas, water and power lines are installed there won’t be problems later on. It’s important to realize that the framework of major roots usually lies less than eight to 12 inches below the surface. And that roots often grow outward to a diameter one to two times the height of the trees. Luckily, most modern sewers involve cemented pipe that greatly reduces tree roots getting into and clogging sewers.
Utility lines should also be placed so they can be dug up and serviced in the future without destroying nearby trees. If trees must be planted beneath power lines or within 15 feet of overhead power lines, choose trees with mature heights less than 25 feet. In Ohio, utilities are generally buried at a depth of two feet, but this can vary greatly due to grade changes. If you’re remodeling, call Ohio Utilities Protection Service (OUPS) at 1-800-362-2764 to locate previously placed underground utilities.
While it’s true that trees offer many benefits, if not chosen wisely, they can litter outdoor living areas or clog gutters with twigs, fruits and other debris. Planted too close to buildings, trees can damage gutters, paint or roofing. Plan to have trees that overhang buildings inspected for structural stability every 3-5 years by a professional arborist. Planting large trees too close to structures also leaves the door open for them to visually overwhelm the building or home.
Security lighting, a necessity in some urban areas, can be rendered ineffective by improper placement of trees with dense foliage, or low spreading branches, that can interfere with illumination.
Another consideration is the need to prune trees to make room for foot and car traffic. They can grow over traffic lights and signs causing dangerous screening. Urban foresters generally recommend that new trees be planted at least 35 feet from intersections to prevent this. Branches of existing trees should be limbed up at six and a half to seven feet above ground. Planting shrubs along city streets is not recommended since density and spread also impair vision.
Among the most valuable natural assets in the modern city, trees bring nature into the urban or suburban site, enhance the environment and raise property values. The continued expansion of suburbs in Ohio means increased demand for trees.
And, whether you live in a new development or existing neighborhood, you can experience the many benefits trees offer…all it takes is smart planning and planting.