Trees For Big Spaces


There are those trees that grow to an astonishing height, width, and girth.  The dawn redwoods in California-they are legendary, given their enormous size and age.   In Michigan, we have giant beech and maples in our climax forests.  The biggest trees I have ever seen in person are in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Even the birch and the cedars grow to enormous size.  None of these trees were in yards-they were all part of virgin forests protected by the state.  Large trees need large spaces to flourish.  It has been some years since I re-landscaped this property around a very large copper beech.  I regret to say that it was recently cut down, and a smaller beech planted in much the same area.  As I could not bear to take down a magnificent tree of this age, I am very careful about placing them in the landscape.   

 If you are like me, you have a small property stuffed with no end of plants.  The one large Norway maple on my property influences the health and happiness of every plant within the reach of its shade and surface roots.  I dislike dealing with the consequences on the ground from this tree, but it is worth the trouble. At least it was planted 30 feet away from the house-for that I am grateful.  Small city lots are not so well suited for big trees-they need  wide open spaces.  This beautiful grove of sassafras trees is stately and elegant-and too large to capture with a camera unless I were in the yard next door.  Large properties like this are ideal for big trees.    

In another spot, a graceful trio of weeping Norway spruce that are so large they have become a single tree.  Removing any one of the three would reveal a not so green interior. But one thing is for sure.  All three have all the room in the world to grow as large as they might.  Any large growing planted forced to fit into a space that is too small invariably has that tortured look.  I rarely see a burning bush planted in a sufficiently large space.  Every euonymus alata compacta grows to 8 by 8 feet-and faster than you think it will.


I have 8 Norway maples in my tree lawn.  The tree lawn?  That space between the sidewalk and the street is the tree lawn.  I would guess those maples have been there 60 years or better.  All of these very big and old maples are  failing; every year another giant branch fails to leaf out.  How so?  The concrete space between the sidewalk and the street makes for roots that go round and round.  Girdling roots can eventually strangle a tree.  My big street trees were beyond surgical help when I moved there, I am sorry to say.  I am too embarassed to publish a picture of my trees.  I would rather you see this old maple, growing vigorously. 

This beautiful oak tree is in a confined space; a driveway sunken below grade makes it impossible to see the drive from the street.  That circle is probably 45 feet across.  Whatever the space, it is enough to keep the tree happy and healthy.   

Weeping willow trees endure all sorts of bad press.  They are weak wooded and are always dropping branches.  But they have a great beauty about them, grown to stand alone in a large space. 

Trees and lawn spaces can make for very powerful and evocative landscapes.  People in this neighborhood have resisted paving the roads, even though the issue comes up for review every few years.  My client has beautifully peaceful views from her large property to the one adjacent.  The country style gravel road makes the landscape appear all the more bucolic.


This landscape is entirely dominated by a double trunked green beech of astonishing size. Part of the landscape renovation will involve some changes to the irrigation system, as well as a plant palette that will cope with the shade cast by the beech.  I am sure when the tree was planted it was quite small by comparison to day.  Though it is badly placed, it is much too beautiful to take down.  So we will build on it.

Twin trunks-beautiful, aren’t they?