The Best Trees for Shade in the Summer and Sun in the Winter

The other day I asked my friend who has his own lawn care business about the best trees to plant in your yard. He’s also an expert on trees. In fact, my trees look better than all the trees in my neighbors’ yards thanks to Brad.

I mentioned to him that my favorite tree is the giant tree, a Camphor tree, in the front yard of the corner house. I explained that I like it most as it has a wonderful canopy that stays green all year. Think of that – no raking leaves.

He quickly pointed out the flaw in my reasoning.

My singular goal for any yard tree is providing shade in the hot summers. Not raking leaves in the fall is a bonus.

Brad quickly 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.

It was so obvious that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of this myself over all these years.

Of course, there are always exceptions to Brad’s insight.

Best trees for the backyardFor 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 point would be relevant.

The point here is that you must 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, I have to rethink my all-time favorite yard tree.

I then asked Brad to name his favorite yard tree. He mentioned a word that was foreign to me. Have you ever heard anyone mention a “deciduous” tree? Neither had I. It’s a word that describes a tree that sheds its leaves in the fall or winter months.

Favorite tree maple treeSo, now I know that Brad’s best yard trees must be in the deciduous category.

Probing further, I discover that one of Brad’s favorite yard trees is the simple 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.

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.

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.

Valley oak tree
Photo credit: Stan Shebs

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.

Talking trees with my friend Brad has given me new insight on the importance of selecting the right trees in the first place.

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.

And now you can impress your friends and neighbors by using the word “deciduous” when talking trees.

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