Our backyard is a tabula rasa when it comes to planting. We have a fairly large city lot with some beautiful perennial gardens around the edges (thanks to the previous owners), a small lilac bush in one corner and one small red maple in another corner. The red maple is growing fast and furious and will be a beautiful tree when it grows up but it's in the northwest corner so it won't do a lot for shading the yard or the house. (It's directly behind Jackson's head in this photo.)
Why do we care so much about shade? Because 99% of our yard is still full-sun. I know, full-sun is a wonderful phrase for gardeners, and believe me, we appreciate it for such. However, come mid-July our yard is scorching; the grass dies, the gardens falters because we don't want to go out and care for them and we never spend any time out there.
We have decided to make some major changes to our yard this year including finally planting a 10'x20' vegetable garden - come what may - and installing a small, brick patio near the porch door with a canvas shade awning for comfort. We also want to plant a tree and that's where you come in.
We have two options, generally, in choosing our tree:
1. A large, beautiful shade tree (like an English Oak hybrid for which I can't currently find a good link) that will grow quickly and provide ample shade for the yard while also shading the west-side of the house, thereby cutting our energy costs significantly (mature height 40'-50').
2. A much smaller ornamental tree (birch, apple tree, etc.) to provide some shade, while leaving some sun for gardening. A smaller tree will not shade the house in any significant way (mature height less than 20').
Dan and I are 50/50 on this (both equally confused, not against each other). We both want SHADE, NOW. But we also both recognize that we may seriously regret the decision when the day comes (10 years or so from now) when we can't grow vegetables anymore. We both want to have a backyard that is ready-for-play for the kids, comfortable for all, and that can produce for us. It is tempting to just sign the credit card slip and buy the big oak now, but is that the right decision? Then there's the question of native vs. non-native and what's appropriate to plant in our area. And what about acorns and things underfoot? I'm not normally such an indecisive person, but this seems like a really big decision to me. It's a TREE.
What would you do? "Full-shade, don't worry, you'll love it when it's finally comfortable in the backyard?" or "Partial-shade to retain some sun for other activities?"
And finally, what kind of tree would you plant? Tabula rasa here, remember. Our soil is average, we have a perfect spot where a tree used to be years ago (just to the left of Jackson in the photo above) and the tree would get the full-sun from which we're trying to hide. Almost anything could grow here.
And because we really want your opinions, let's make it a contest. Please comment here by May 15th. Comments can include just votes on "full-shade" or "partial-shade" or full-on tree enthusiast diatribes about the philosophy of choosing the right tree to plant. Any and all advice is welcomed.
The prize will either be a skein of some of the lovely organic yarns that are becoming increasingly more available in my LYS's or a bag of eco-friendly goodies from the garden store (for the non-knitters amongst us). Indicate in your comment what you'd prefer. You also MUST include your email address in your comment in order to win, since Blogger doesn't share your addresses with me. If I can't reach you, you can't win!
Thanks, in advance, for your help!