The Amazing Power of Trees

Drawn illustration of two trees.

Learn about the benefits of trees

Studies have shown that parks, gardens and landscaped boulevards can have profound impacts on our cities. Not to mention, thriving groups of trees can enhance curb appeal and increase property value. Here are just a few of the many benefits that make trees the heroes of our landscapes:

They cool our streets and cities. Trees shade and cool hot surfaces and landscapes, acting like air conditioning for our streets and cities.

They purify our air. Trees exhale the oxygen we need to breathe while absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutants such as ozone, sulfur and nitrogen dioxide from the air.

They protect against floods. Trees intercept and absorb stormwater, slowing the flow of runoff in times of flooding. 

They support our natural world. Trees provide food and habitat for millions of species of animals, birds and insects worldwide.

Top Trees for Urban Landscapes

Person planting potted trees along a hill.
Adding new native trees or shrubs to your property is an exciting decision that will benefit your entire community.

While it’s a relatively simple project, some care and thought should be given to the selection of trees and the planting site(s). Here are a few of the top species we recommend for urban environments:

Northern Red Oak — Quercus rubra

Oaks are one of our mostly highly recommended trees because they bring so many benefits to our local ecosystems. Over 500 different species of insects use oaks for food or shelter, offering an all-you-can-eat buffet to the birds. The northern red oak is a great choice for most urban properties because it’s drought and salt tolerant, it grows relatively quickly and can live for hundreds of years.

Eastern Red Cedar — Juniperus virginiana

The eastern red cedar is a resilient tree that stays green all year, adding colour and life to your property even in the depth of winter. Many songbirds visit eastern red cedars for their highly nutritious berries and for year-round shelter. Cedar waxwings love these berries so much they were even named after the red cedar. Blue jays, black-capped chickadees, robins, finches and several other birds also rely on this species for survival.

Freeman’s Maple — Acer x freemanii

Hardy and fast-growing, the Freeman’s maple is a great shade tree suited to most urban landscapes. Small red flowers appear in early spring, providing emerging bees with a much-needed food source. The Freeman’s maple also hosts hundreds of species of butterflies. Come fall, its brilliant red colour will make any property stand out.

Smooth Serviceberry — Amelanchier laevis

Great for small spaces, the smooth serviceberry grows only about three meters tall, but works as hard as any other tree. Pollinators welcome serviceberries’ early spring nectar and pollen, and some moths and butterflies rely on them as host plants to live on as caterpillars. In early summer, edible berries emerge, darkening from red to deep purple, depending on the species. Birds adore serviceberries, so they get lots of winged visitors, like woodpeckers, cedar waxwings and gray catbirds.

Tips For Your New Tree(s)

Choose the right spot. Before you begin, contact Ontario One Call to have underground cables and lines marked so you can avoid them when planting. Then, consider the full-grown size of the tree or shrubs you’re planting to determine how much space they need to grow. Always avoid planting tall-growing trees under utility lines or within three meters (9 feet) of a building foundation. It’s also important to consider whether the roots will be affected by high traffic.

Know your soil. While many of the trees that are planted in urban environments can tolerate harsher soil conditions, trees don’t thrive without the right amount of organic matter, water, gas and minerals in their soil. Knowing the type of soil you’re working with and how to prepare and amend it will help support your trees and ensure their survival. 

Take care as they grow. The key to healthy tree or shrub roots is watering slowly to ensure the water penetrates deep into the soil. Water whenever the soil feels hard and dry. On average, this will be twice a week during the growing season if there’s been no rain. To help retain moisture and prevent weed growth, apply a natural, biodegradable mulch like shredded bark, woodchips or leaves around your planting area. Always avoid synthetic fertilizers. As the mulch decomposes, it will improve the soil structure and feed your tree or shrub naturally. Replace the mulch as needed to maintain a 5 to 8 centimeter layer.

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