“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.“
– John Muir
Evergreens suffer from the curse of being so good at their job that they scarcely get noticed. For many of us, they are simply just “there” in our gardens, and don’t get many kudos beyond their ornamental purpose. Not only does an evergreen add year-round style and color in an easy and foolproof way, but they could be one of the most beneficial additions you could make to your yard and home.
We love to enjoy our outdoor space at home, but most of us prefer to do so with a little bit of privacy. Using plants as a natural barrier and screen can make your home and yard more comfortable to enjoy while adding to your backyard aesthetic, instead of distracting from it. Deciduous trees are delightful in the summer to provide a lush screen for your home but with our long Iowa winters leaving them bare for months on end, they just don’t do the job. Cold weather shouldn’t make you feel like you need to live life with the blinds closed. Evergreens provide beautifully lush coverage every day of the year. With so many species available, you can choose a natural screen that is as large or small as you need – either as a bold statement plant, or a modest and small-footprint privacy screen.
It’s common knowledge that bigger canopy trees, like Elms and Willows, help to shade and cool our homes in the summer when the sun is harshest. But in our sometimes frigid winters, we find ourselves begging for some extra warmth. The truth is that the winter wind pulls heat from our house and makes our furnaces work on overtime to maintain a comfortable temperature. Our gas bills are higher and houses are left less cozy.
Evergreens provide all the same summer-shade benefits that we crave on the hottest days of the year, but they also do an amazing job of protecting our homes in the winter when the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves to hibernate. This makes them a great choice to block prevailing winds. Plant close enough to your home to be effective, but still far enough (15-20 feet away) that the roots have room to grow.
In midwestern states that take a temperature dive in the winter, it’s smartest to plant evergreens on the North side of your home. A towering, lush tree on the South could block the sun from naturally warming your house, while a northern placement will block the majority of the coldest winds. A deciduous on the South will let the sun in when the temperatures are coldest, but will provide shade in the summer.
We’re realizing that dousing our yards in chemicals can not only make our yard problems worse in the long run, but they also pose a hazard that prevents us from enjoying all our outdoor space. Natural yards that have healthy predator populations will keep the pests in check for you and, like anything that we want to keep around, our helpful predators need some protection, too.
Evergreens help to sustain populations of birds and other creatures that help to maintain a balanced yard ecosystem. Animals use their consistently green branches to find shelter in the winter and protect themselves from bigger predators, all while making a home close to your garden to keep pests in check. By keeping your tree growing close to the ground, you’ll be maximizing its benefit as a shelter to the best predators for a healthy yard – while also hiding the patch of grass under the tree that notoriously struggles to grow.
Trees are the earth’s lungs, and they work hard to strip the air of pollutants, replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. In the summer, our deciduous trees help to guard our yards from the pollutants and smog that might creep into our homes, but their abilities are limited in the winter when air pollution is at its worst.
While barren deciduous branches don’t do much for air quality, the needles on your evergreen do. They aren’t perfect at removing all pollutants, but they are able to help you and your home all year while your deciduous trees are sleeping. And while they won’t remove all the pollution, their fresh pine scent will certainly help your home feel a little fresher. There’s a reason so many household cleaners smell like pine!
Evergreens are so reliable that we often forget about them and neglect to give them credit where it is due. While we often consider them as the background plants, they are often the unsung heros. They offer tons of benefits to you, your family, your home, and even your bank account. With so many benefits, we’re lucky that they are also such a stunning addition to any home. Not just a pretty face, beautiful evergreens are ready to work to make your home and yard easier to enjoy.