How to design around existing trees

Identifying the tree on your property, and how to include it in your landscape design

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Every home, it is said, needs a tree.

We love trees in summer for their shade and their breeze, in spring for their love of life, in autumn for their show down, and in winter for their bare beauty.

Trees are a distinguishing factor in well-established and sought-after suburbs, whether for the way they line the streets or for the way they add maturity and character to homes.

If you happen to buy your dream home in one such suburb, then this article will help you understand how to design around a well-established tree.

Designing with mature trees: Pro and cons

A mature tree can be hinderance or an asset, depending on your mindset and the type of tree with which you are dealing.


  • They add character to the garden.
  • The bare trunk will give a sculpted look, and when highlighted can add a touch of drama.
  • You can underplant (if you add free mulch to the garden bed then you won’t have to pull out the weeds)
  • They’ll keep your surroundings cool during summer.


  • A mature tree will have quite an extensive root system underneath; you must be careful not to damage the tree if you decide to use the space underneath.
  • An arborist will help you to identify the issues and how to rectify without chopping the whole tree. It is an expense worth spending if you want to retain the tree.
  • Local council approval is required to remove mature trees.

READ ALSO: Native plants in your garden

Designing with evergreen trees

If you happen to have an evergreen tree in your yard, depending on the variety and the shade they cast, the design ideas below can be implemented when redesigning your yard.

  • Choose shade-tolerant plants for underplanting, like ferns.
  • The soil underneath pine trees is acidic, so acid-loving plants like hydrangea, azalea and liriope are a good choice.
  • Because evergreen trees provide shade throughout the year, some seating underneath could be worth considering.

Designing with deciduous trees

Deciduous trees are appealing in any garden because of the all-year-round interest they provide. If your new property has deciduous trees, then you must maximize its beauty in your renovation or landscaping designs.

  • Choose part-shade plants for underplanting.
  • Highlight as feature tree, and then design the other aspects of the garden.
  • Highlight with lights at dusk for immediate garden enhancement.

READ ALSO: Building your dream ‘green’ home

green home
Image supplied

Designing with palm trees

Palm trees have shallow root systems, so care should be taken on how you treat the space underneath them.

  • Highlight by designing a block wall or stone wall around your palm tree for a stand-out effect.
  • Layer it with other varieties of plants to soften the landscape, as palm trees give a structured look.
  • Add other palm varieties to bring in a tropical look.
landscaping around trees 1
Source: Pinterest

Hardscape design features underneath your tree

There are numerous hardscape features that can be added underneath the trees as long as care is taken not to damage the root system of the existing mature tree and enough space is left for the tree to acquire required nutrients.

  • Add a stone bench or wall for seating.
  • Add a deck.
  • Add a paved area for seating and dining.
  • Add a hanging chair or swing if the branch is strong.

Spend some time to learn about the trees in the garden of your new home or property. There are heaps of online groups you could join, and professional websites to try. Be guided by nature in your renovation or garden redesign plans. Remember that old adage, someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

Once you’ve grown to truly love your tree, you could learn how your tree could help add value to your property.

READ ALSO: Pool friendly plant choices

Gopika Sambantham
Gopika Sambantham
Gopika Sambantham is a landscape designer by profession. A nature lover, she loves the adventurous pastimes and sports.

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