Best Trees for Both Summer Shade & Winter Sun

The other day I asked my friend who has his own lawn care business about the best trees to plant in my yard. He’s an expert on trees, which is probably why my existing trees are so beautiful and healthy.

I mentioned to him that my favorite tree is the giant tree in one of my neighbor’s front yards, a Camphor tree. I told him I loved that tree because it has a wonderful canopy that stays green all year. Think about it… no leaves to rake!

Giant camphor trees
This huge Camphor tree stays green year round.
Backyard trees in the uk

He smiled, and quickly pointed out the problem with trees that stay green all year long.

Brad informed me that a tree with leaves in the winter keeps the warm sun from providing heat on those cold winter days. He told me the best trees for your yard keep your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter – at least on sunny days.

My singular goal for any yard tree has always been to provide needed shade in the hot summers. Not raking leaves in the fall was a bonus. The notion that the trees we surround ourselves with could be more versatile was so obvious, but I’d never once considered it before.

Of course, there are caveats to Brad’s insight.

For example, the tree at the end of the block is in the front yard and the house sits on the south side of the street. So in the winter months with the arc of the sun in the southern hemisphere, the full canopy has little effect in blocking the sun from reaching the front of the house. Now, if this beautiful tree was in the back yard, Brad’s suggestion would be relevant.

My point is that you must also consider the location of your house and the location of the tree before reaching any conclusions about shade in the summer and sun in the winter.

Still, it may be time to rethink my all-time favorite yard tree.

I then asked Brad to name his favorite yard tree. He mentioned a category of trees that was foreign to me; Deciduous trees. “Deciduous” describes a tree that sheds its leaves in the fall or winter months.

Oaks vs. Maples

One of Brad’s favorite yard trees in this category is the beautiful and humble maple tree. Of course, you have your choice from among several varieties of maple trees. The really good news is that I planted a maple tree in my front yard about ten years ago. And thanks to Brad’s limb trimming, it’s growing nicely.

Small maple tree

Brad also likes the Valley Oak, as it grows quickly. On the downside, he tells me it takes too long for all the leaves to fall – often taking from October through January in California where we live. Plus, these mighty oaks grow very tall so they may not be ideal for your yard.

Drive way lined with deciduous oak trees.
Drive way lined with oak trees.

My next door neighbor has a valley oak in the front yard and its falling leaves can be found in my yard and gutters during the winter months. Another very important thing to consider is the cost of trimming very tall trees. My neighbor spent $1,200 to have his oak trimmed about two years ago by a certified arborist. Yet, it didn’t look right. A year later another company charged him only $600 and did a much better job. So, in two years my neighbor spent $1,800 to trim this monster.

Trimming shorter maple trees is much less costly.

Too often, folks fail to keep their yard trees trimmed and this causes expensive trouble down the road. It’s imperative that you select your yard trees wisely to minimize the cost of trimming while enjoying shade in the summer and heat in the winter year after year.

Other Beautiful Deciduous Trees

Dogwood trees

One deciduous tree that always looks beautiful and interesting in any backyard is the Dogwood tree. It bursts into bloom in spring with large white, pink, and red blossoms depending on the species. In the summer, it offers a lush canopy of foliage, and most species of Dogwood drop their leaves in the winter. There’s a variety for most regions of the U.S., making it one of the most popular flowering trees in America. Click here to learn more about Evergreen Dogwood trees.

Cherry trees

The Weeping Cherry tree is another versatile, yet beautiful option for a front or backyard tree. With cascades of elegant white and pink blossoms in the spring, this tree is always the envy of the neighborhood. Many species provide a wide spread of branches, and thus shade, while simultaneously being compact enough to fit in any yard. Like all deciduous trees, the Weeping Cherry looses its foliage in winter, making sure to let in that much needed sunlight and warmth.

Talking trees with my friend Brad has given me new insight on the importance of selecting the right trees for your specific yard and house. If you already have undesirable trees in your yard, it’s never too late to have them removed so you can start over planting the right trees for your yard. Now, you can try and impress your friends and neighbors by using the word “deciduous” when talking trees.

Happy planting!

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