In many parts of the country, with summer bearing down on us, we seek the relative comfort of shade. I won’t do the stereotypical do-si-do and complain about the weather; rather, I’ll talk about a simple solution to urban summer heat: trees. They’ve been called the lungs of the earth — rightly so. Trees are our dear old friends, providing oxygen, cooling greenery and acting as a habitat for wildlife. They also enhance the landscape and can even raise property values (bearing in mind, one must plant a tree that adapts well to its environment). And, perhaps most important for the summer, trees provide shade.
Coming in many shapes and sizes, shade trees provide the shade canopy that can be the stuff of dreams. For this post, I’ll discuss only the deciduous variety — the best provider of shade. How about a “Great Gatsby” summer, lounging in linen beneath a massive weeping willow’s lush and bucolic shades of green, a drink in your hand and a smile upon your face? Back to reality: I live in a big city, with parks but also blast-furnace vehicles and glaring concrete and glass. Breathe a little life into your world. The more trees, the better. Here are 6 small shade trees for city gardens.
Grows up to 15 feet tall; leafy; not too large (like other maples); native
White blossoms in spring, cherries in summer (bonus!); upright; native
Gingko (pictured above)
Tough as nails, this old-timer can handle anything you throw at it — including smog and heat waves
Sentimental favourite (my Grannie had a gnarly old one in her front yard on the prairies); silver/blue leaves; another pollution-tolerant tree
Pretty cinnamon stick peeling bark; fall colour is yellow/orange; native
A stunner in the spring: lavender buds cover the branches, followed by large heart-shaped leaves; native
And here are 5 large shade trees for city gardens. But, plant these species only if you have the room — they can really take up space. If you do have the room to let them grow, generations of family and neighbours will love you for it.
Chestnut (pictured above)
Stately, sheltering, big (imagine a grand boulevard lined with these); should be planted away from patios and such, as the sharp burrs that cover the nut can cause pain; Note: chestnuts are tasty when roasted
Grows quickly to a height of 40 to 60 feet; dappled shade allows light through, so grass can grow beneath; salt-tolerant; brilliant, glowing yellow in fall
Autumn Blaze Maple
A show-stopper (like the name suggests); fast-growing; native
Grows to a height of 30 feet; golden-bronze autumn colour; attracts wildlife; native
Many varieties, so I’ll go with the little-leaf: cool, dark-green leaves; flowers can be used for a soothing herbal tea; grows to a height of 60 to 80 feet; one of the oldest living tree species in Europe (some in England date back 1,000 years) — a true survivor.
There are too many wonderful trees to list in this blog, but these 11 suggestions should have you off to a great start. Why not take a stroll down a tree-lined street, or in your local park, to see what’s growing? Share your observations in the Comments! And remember, there are no bad trees — only bad planning.