Using Trees for Design Advantage
For designing roadside landscapes, start with trees. Once your inspiration has been realized and you have addressed issues like slope, circulation, function, and hardscape features, you can begin your planting plan. The easiest way to provide a low-maintenance landscape for a large roadside site is to limit your plant choices to two types—trees and turf. Keeping things simple looks nice and makes the upkeep worry-free! After planting, only a few maintenance tasks need to be done each year to care for this configuration.
• The grass needs to be mowed.
• The plant beds need to be mulched around the edges about twice a year.
• The soil needs to be fertilized.
• An arborist needs to be hired every seven years or so to evaluate the health and structure of the trees to keep them thriving.
• The trees need to be watered during severe droughts.
The design is only care-free if the trees are consolidated into plant beds and spaced close enough so the natural leaf litter falling from the trees provides adequate ground coverage. The leaf canopy will provide enough shade to prevent a lot of weeds from volunteering between the trunks. A spacing of ten to twenty feet on center is about right. By consolidating the trees in groves, tractors can navigate all the turf areas methodically, without having to circle individual rings around each tree.
Tree groves are easy. You can use a unique, single tree species to brighten each season. A grove of Chaste trees is a welcomed splash of color in the heat of summer. A grove of Red Maples turn a brilliant red, worthy of photographing, in the fall. A grove of Winter King Hawthorn trees looks cheerful with prolific red berries. The red berries of the Hawthorns would contrast nicely in front of a grove of Leyland Cypress evergreens in the dead of winter. A grove of twenty Yoshino Cherry trees, all blooming at once in the early spring, is a glorious sight. Planting trees in groves is a simple, dramatic design practice.
You can combine tree species on roadsides to create an idealized woodland setting. Loblolly Pines and Cedars inter-planted with Oaks and Sassafras and Dogwoods creates an environment inviting to volunteer native understory growth.
Trees are the most self-sustaining of plants, and maintenance is straightforward. Landscape crews, if they know nothing else, know how to mow grass. You can always embellish a landscape structured with tree groves with large masses of evergreen or flowering shrubs, but a simple, tasteful grove in a sea of turf makes a smart start to any large-scale landscape design.