Unveiling the Concept of Specimen Trees: A Guide to Incorporating Them into Your Yard

Landscape design is incomplete without specimen trees. They can be large or small. Ornamental or plain. Tall or rounded. They are usually planted individually, rather than in rows or groups, to add visual appeal or seasonal splendor. There are a wide variety of specimens trees available, depending on your space, location, and needs.

What is a Specimen tree?
A specimen tree can be a focal point in a landscape. It is usually characterized by an unusual texture, color, or shape that makes it stand out from the other trees and shrubs.

Why should I plant a specimen tree?
Plant and garden lovers have a predictable way of being: they love the beauty that nature provides in all its forms. They also find beauty in the simple things like the change of seasons. What could be more beautiful than a tree with pink flowers in the spring, an oak with brown leaves on its branches in early winter, when most trees are bare, or a lush, evergreen tree in a snowy scene? The beauty of a specimen tree selected for its seasonal drama is not only a source of joy, but can also give us hope when the seasons change. For example, if the redbud looks frail and spindly during winter months, it will bloom with lavender in the spring.

Some specimens may have bark or leaves with unusual textures, vibrant foliage colors or a striking shape to the branches (like corkscrew-shaped willows). Flowers trees are important for pollinators in this time of climate change. Birds, animals, and people can all benefit from them. They can also be used in practical ways in the landscape, such as a canopy of fragrant flowers for spring gatherings or to provide shade and cooling in late summer.

The impact of specimen trees
It will also affect wildlife. Wildlife may be affected. Check to see if the tree is susceptible or not to pests and diseases. The location of the tree is crucial because its root system will affect your foundation, your sidewalks, your septic system, and your water table. Consult an arborist to ensure you understand the long-term effects of the tree on your property.
The specimen tree in the middle of the garden with its tall branches and pink flowers.
The Spruce (Evgeniya Vlasova)
What to consider when choosing a specimen tree
When choosing a specimen, you should ask some questions beyond whether the tree’s hardiness zone and sunlight requirements are appropriate for your yard. You want to choose wisely because a tree is an investment for the future.

Rate of growth
Some trees grow more quickly than others. Japanese maples, for instance, are slow-growing. Fast-growing trees can compromise the strength of their structure (weeping Willows, for example). Think about whether the tree you are considering will fit your needs for many years to come. Some trees can live for hundreds of years. According to an ancient Greek proverb, “A society becomes great when old men plant the trees whose shade no one will ever sit in.”
Size
Will it be too large for your yard or too tall to maintain easily? Even a 30-foot tree can be difficult to prune. Some trees grow up to 100 feet high. Check the mature spread of the tree or its canopy to see how close it can be planted to your home or other structures.

Shape
Think about the shape of the tree: Will the branches form a vase? Will they grow without too much trimming? Does the shape of your tree or shrub make a nice contrast with your existing trees and plants? Research before you purchase.

Weather
Your tree should suit your growing zone. Consider the extreme weather conditions that are normal in your area. Do you have high winds during winter? Are there frequent thunderstorms during the summer? You can choose a tree for your area that is hardy and healthy by doing some research.

Fruit or Nut trees
Be aware that certain fruit and nut tree species produce quite a bit of litter. (Fallen fruits, nutshells etc.). If you are not accustomed to this, it can have a negative impact on your maintenance plan. Deer are fond of apples that have fallen to the ground. Be prepared to deal with rotting fruit and insects. Choose self-pollinating fruit and nut trees if you want to plant a specimen. Otherwise, you will need to buy more than one.

Color
Adding a specimen tree to your landscape is a great way to add color and interest. Some deciduous tree colors change dramatically in the fall, while others have colors that are unusual (like purple) throughout the year. When new growth is visible, some evergreens display dramatic color contrasts. There are a lot of different cultivars of specimen trees that come in a wide range of colors. Do you want your crab apple to bloom at the same time as your purple lilacs in May? You might prefer a colorful explosion at a later date in the season. Plan your blooming time to maximize the impact on your garden.

Texture
Texture is found in many parts of the tree: bark, leaves, and fruits. Texture can affect how a tree reflects light. Azaleas and holly have glossy leaves. Some oaks produce glossy leaves while others have a matte finish. The shape of the leaves can also affect texture: small leaves on a branch look different than trees with large flat leaves, like catalpa and redbud; larger leaves offer better shade. There is a wide variety of textures among evergreens, particularly in junipers. Bark with texture is attractive as well: think of shagbark, hickory or river birch (which produces tasty nuts).


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