My wife bemoans the lack of a view from our kitchen window. She imagines that trees, ones that I’ve planted over three decades, obstruct her view of the Bull Run Mountains just a few hills away. Certainly there are trees in the garden, many, since my preference is clearly for woodies rather than perennials, but they hide only the view of hills that surround this property.
The hill behind our home was once part of a cattle farm. Our mischievous young teenage boys, now mannerly and responsible gentlemen, once constructed a compressed air cannon (I think a typical project for intellectually curious boys), thinking they could target cows in the distance with fist sized stones that fortunately fell far short. Today, trees obstruct this target range, and the view of the grassy cow pasture is marred by nice homes on lots dotted with maples, and hopefully an oak or two.
There are plenty of maples and oaks, as well as tulip poplars, blackgums, dogwoods, and sassafras in the strip of forest that provides shade for the southern edge of our property. A Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’, above) prominently blocks the view to lower parts of the garden, though several Japanese maples and a Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina, below) sit closer to the window.
A wide spreading serviceberry (I think Amelanchier grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’, below) borders the forest, and while it grows vigorously in dry shade, by mid summer it begins to shed leaves so that it is nearly bare by early autumn. A purple leafed European beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’) creates its own dry shade, dropping leaves in summer to cover a stone path in the front garden, though in recent rainy summers leaves are held until late in September.
A second beech, green leafed with pendulous branching (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’), dominates the northern border of the rear garden from the neighbor’s side, but it is partially hidden from view from within the garden by two fringetrees (Chionanthis virginicus, below) and a ‘Venus’ dogwood. The marvelous beech was completely obscured from the patio beside the koi pond until a tall ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) perished due to excessive rainfall a few years ago. Now, an opening has been carved out, with a dwarf crape myrtle also removed (since I didn’t care much for it), and I must remain disciplined not to plant anything to block the view of the beech.
A Blue Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’) that stands over the koi pond is in deteriorating health. I fear it will be lost, but I’ve long been concerned that its ultimate size might overwhelm the area, so perhaps this could be a blessing. If it goes, and certainly I’d prefer that it not, the spot is ideal for a yellow flowered magnolia, ‘Yellow Bird’ that is a deeper yellow than the pale ‘Elizabeth’ in the front garden. Two other deciduous magnolias, ‘Merrill’ and ‘Royal Star’ border the forest close by the cedar (a third, ‘Jane’ sits alongside the driveway).
While two beeches are most impressive for their size and character, Japanese maples (below) have been planted by the dozens, with many now grown to maturity. What was once an open field, almost certainly an extension of the cattle field beyond our back property line, has become shaded from maples, dogwoods, redbuds, stewartias (below) and others. While many gardeners prefer a sunnier garden, I’m quite happy with our shady garden of trees.
Note – below are a sampling of trees in the garden not listed above. There are twenty more Japanese maples and several dogwoods, and one of a bunch more. Is this too many trees for an acre and a quarter? You’re asking the wrong gardener.