The Grounds Guys
Tree in open field with text: "Exploring the shapes & sizes of trees"

Exploring the Shapes and Sizes of Trees

A comprehensive home or business design includes not only the structural architecture and interior design but also the landscape architecture. Trees form the backbone of a well-designed landscape and paint three-dimensional works of art onto a living canvas. Regardless of the size and shape of your property, there's a tree that's a perfect fit. Let the professionals at The Grounds Guys take you on a virtual exploration of tree shapes and sizes.

Tree Sizes

Trees are placed into three broad categories by size:

  1. Small. Trees that typically stay under 25 feet over their lifetime. Good for small lots or as accents in the landscape. Dogwood (Cornus spp.) and Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) are small trees with spring color. Dogwood has colorful bracts and Eastern redbud is awash with colorful flowers before it leafs out in spring.
  2. Medium. Trees with mature heights no greater than approximately 40 feet. Two native tree choices are American hornbean (Carpinus caroliniana) and American yellowwood (Cladastris spp.).
  3. Large. Trees that grow more than 40 feet tall, with some reaching heights up to 100 feet. Be sure to provide plenty of room for tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and live oak (Quercus virginiana).

Tree Shapes

Tree shapes are diverse, such as these types with examples in each category:

  • Round. Red maple (Acer rubrum) and golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)
  • Oval. Callery pear trees (Pyrus calleryana 'Cleveland Select')
  • V- or Vase-Shape. Trees that are wider at the top than at the base, which look like fluted vases. Cherry and plum trees (Prunus spp.) are spring-flowering trees with vase shapes.
  • Triangle. Think of an Egyptian pyramid. Many evergreen trees are triangular, such as arborvitae (Thuja spp.) and cypress (Cupressus spp.)
  • Rectangle. Tall and narrow, with a columnar shape: Columnare red maple (Acer rubrum 'Columnare') and maidenhair tree (Gingko biloba)
  • Weeping. Tree shapes with branches that cascade down. Weeping cherry (Prunus subhirtella) and weeping willow (Salix babylonica) have similar forms, but dissimilar root tendencies. Weeping cherry roots are not invasive but weeping willow roots can be a problem, so plant willow away from sewer pipes.
  • Umbrella. Exactly what it sounds like, umbrella-shaped trees have a wide canopy, such as chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) and disease-resistant elms, such as (Ulmus americana 'New Harmony').

Design Tips for Incorporating Tree Shapes and Sizes into Your Landscape:

  • Vision. Make your design plan with the mature tree sizes - heights and widths - of your landscape trees in mind. What's a small sapling now may grow so tall that it interferes with overhead power lines.
  • Balance. Keep things balanced by choosing trees that are proportionate in scale to your home or business.
  • Framing. Planted diagonally away from the corners of your building, the right tree shapes provide the frame that complements your home or office.
  • Background. If the view over your rear property line is unsightly, choose tall columnar trees to provide a green privacy screen.
  • Foreground. Don't overwhelm the front of your home or office by choosing tall trees that dominate the entrance. Soften this space with smaller or offset trees.
  • Focal Point. A specimen tree is one that draws the eye toward it. Choose one with exfoliating bark, colorful leaves or a weeping form. And if you get a really creative itch, consider an espaliered tree as a unique focal point.

With so many tree sizes and shapes to consider, don't get overwhelmed with the choices for your property. Call on The Grounds Guys for advice and suggestions of which ones will work best in your landscape. And if you just need help with proper tree pruning techniques to get that perfect tree shape, we've got your back.