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Tree Selection Tips

A guide to picking and planting trees

By Jeff McMann

Photo by Rudy Kral

Whether you live in the city or the country, odds are trees have always been an integral part of your landscape. Perhaps this is why most of us take these impressive plants for granted. While we are often encouraged to 'stop and smell the roses,' we rarely take time to think about the importance of trees in our lives and landscapes.

The value of trees

Trees play several important roles in our environment. The very air we breathe is improved by the presence of trees—during the process of photosynthesis, tree leaves absorb light from the sun and combine water with carbon dioxide from the air, to form sugars and nutrients for the tree. The process also gives off oxygen in return. Trees also absorb, trap and filter harmful pollutants such as smoke and dust, making our air cleaner, while also attracting, feeding and providing homes for birds and other wildlife.

Trees provide shade in the summer and shelter in winter. In fact, trees planted around your home can even help reduce heating and cooling costs. During summer, trees can block the sun and have a cooling effect on us and our homes. Well-placed trees can also buffer noise from nearby neighbours and passing vehicles, and can reduce glare and provide shade and shelter from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Trees also add beauty to a landscape. How often do we drive up north to look at the autumn colours? Even during winter, the snow and ice that settle on branches provide visual interest. Also, the psychological impact of trees is strong, whether we realize it or not. Plants in general create a feeling of relaxation by reducing stress. If nothing else, they give us an excuse to sit back, close our eyes and relax while listening to the wind rustle though the leaves.

From a landscaping perspective, trees often provide the backbone around which a property is designed. In fact, the mere presence of healthy, well-established trees can increase the property value of your home.

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