Balancing your landscape with trees, vines and shrubs

July 27, 2015

Planning your landscape elements before you begin work is essential for a beautiful, worry-free garden for years to come. Ensuring that your landscape feels balanced means the right mix of hardscape (permanent elements), smaller elements like flowering plants and larger elements like trees, shrubs and vines.

Balancing your landscape with trees, vines and shrubs


Trees may be evergreen or deciduous. Evergreens are great for spots that need some green year round; deciduous trees offer more variety, changing their look with each season and offering beautiful leaves, flowers and fruit.

  • Height can vary from 30 centimetres (one foot) for a dainty alpine evergreen up to 30 metres (100 feet) for mature oaks. Spread varies too, up to 12 metres (40 feet) or more.
  • Think about the characteristics you want — and don't want — in a tree. Consider height, width, form, bark texture and colour, fruit or berries, flowers, when the tree drops its leaves and over what period of time, seasonal colour and interest, disease problems, suitability to your climate, how much shade it will create when mature and pruning needs, as well as sun, soil and water needs.
  • A crabapple has gorgeous blossoms, but unless you choose a sterile variety, it will produce thousands of little fruits, which can litter walks and drives. Draw up a list of characteristics you would like and present it to a nursery.


Vines add greenery or colour and use little ground space, offering an effective way to create vertical interest in the landscape. Vines are also useful in creating privacy, hiding eyesores and making the most of a small garden.

  • Whether you choose an annual or perennial vine, pay attention to how it will attach itself to its support. Some vines (such as morning glories, wisteria, honeysuckle) twine, others (clematis, grapes, most sweet peas) send out tendrils.
  • Trumpet creeper, ivies, climbing hydrangea cling with "holdfasts" or tiny suction cups.
  • The clinging types are somewhat permanent and are suitable only for brick, stone and other surfaces that are virtually maintenance-free.
  • Some vines, such as large-flowered clematis, take two or three years to attain just 1.8 to three metres (six to 10 feet).
  • Viens such as wisteria, grow 1.8 to three metres much in a year, reaching 12 metres (40 feet) or more and toppling all but the sturdiest supports.


Like trees, shrubs are classified as either evergreen or deciduous. They can fill a landscape with flowers, fragrance, greenery, colour and form in a way that belies their size.

  • Shrubs vary in height from very compact to 4.5 metres (15 feet) or more; in some cases they can be pruned to serve as a small tree. The spread varies as well. For example, a spreading juniper grows just 0.6 to one metre (two to three feet) high but more than 1.8 metres (six feet) across.
  • Entire gardens created with shrubs and shrub borders are low-maintenance alternatives to flower borders.
  • When choosing a shrub, consider characteristics besides size: flower or berries; bloom time; leaf form and seasonal colour; requirements for sun, soil and water; and pruning needs.
  • Draw up a list of the traits you want and a description of the planting site, and take it to a nursery. A good nursery will help you choose plants fitting your desired traits.

Adding the right mix of greenery to your landscape improves the look of your home. It's important to choose properly so you can comfortably maintain them while adding just the right touch of curb-appeal.

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