As the season moves into early summer, the deciduous trees here at Hackberry Point have finally leafed out fully. Depending on the time of day, trees cast welcoming pools of shade over various parts of the garden. And while I don’t consciously think about the sounds trees bring to the garden very often, that, too, is a welcoming feature. For one thing, the sound of wind in the treetops says something about the weather today—whether I’ll be greeted by a brisk breeze or air that is still and humid when I venture out into the garden. Most days, birds and insects calling and chattering from the branches add to the the rustle and whisper of the leaves.
Above: Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)
While the garden here includes both native and non native plants, most of the tree canopy consists of native species. Not surprisingly, there are quite a few northern hackberries (Celtis occidentalis) here, plus I have oaks (Quercus spp.), osage orange (Maclura pomifera), black walnuts (Juglans nigra), cherries (Prunus spp.), and redcedars (Juniperus virginiana), to name a few. That’s good news for all the wildlife that share our space, since native plants support a rich array of insects, which in turn feed many of the birds that live here. Non-native plants don’t support wildlife as well as our native species do. For more on the connections between wildlife, gardens, and native plants, read Douglas Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home.
Planting native trees is one of the best ways to make a garden more Bay friendly, and that’s not just because they are better for wildlife. They also help control runoff, can reduce electricity bills, and more. I found a great link recently called the National Tree Benefit Calculator that lets you quantify the benefits that various trees bring to your landscape.
The Calculator uses your zip code, and lets you insert the species of tree (or general type), and trunk diameter. The red oak in my front yard, which is about 22 inches in diameter, brings an estimated $181 of benefits per year. That includes stormwater management, electricity saved, property value, air quality. According to the Calculator, this tree
- Intercepts 5,953 gallons of water a year,
- Contributes about $90 to my property value,
- Conserves about $185 kilowatt hours in electricity per year,
- Reduces atmospheric carbon by 846 pounds annually. (An average mid-size car emits about 11,000 pounds per year, so you need 13 trees this size to counteract your car emissions.)
The 25-inch diameter red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) in the back yard intercepts 3,278 gallons of water, but only adds $8 to property value—I suppose because it is a less appealing species. (Not to me!) The calculator estimates it saves 153 kilowatt hours, and will reduce atmospheric carbon by 551 pounds per year.
Figure in the value these trees bring to wildlife: Oaks support 517 species of butterflies and moths, alone, and 40 species of birds and wildlife eat the berries of redcedars). Then add in the delicious shade they cast for sipping iced tea during the summer months (we actually have a hammock under the abovementioned red cedar), and I have a wealth of reasons to appreciate my trees today—and figure out where I can plant more.
Have you hugged your trees today?