Many homeowners enjoy planting trees around their property for ornamental and landscaping purposes. Depending on the season, different variants of popular landscaping trees can offer amenities such as shade, privacy, flowers, and even fruit. They can soften the edges of buildings and create natural barriers, or display spectacular colors in the foliage and blossoms they produce during spring, summer, or fall.
Choosing the types of trees best for your property will depend on what your personal preferences are, mainly in terms of aesthetics and function. But there are also many symbolic elements associated with different varieties of popular landscaping trees, many of which can be linked back to geographic origins, history, and folklore, or even based on the shapes and colors of leaves and blossoms.
While these symbolic meanings may not dictate your tree selection choices, they are fun to know about nonetheless. Here are some landscaping trees you may already be familiar with, but perhaps weren’t aware of what they traditionally symbolize:
Arborvitae: An evergreen that comes in several varieties, this tree is often tall and elegant and serves well for hedges or privacy purposes. The branches grow densely together and adapt well to shaping and pruning, making it very popular as a landscaping tree. Arborvitae is considered versatile and hardy, and can thrive in many different types of soil conditions; its also able to handle weather extremes, which means no unsightly brown spots or holes in winter.
Arborvitae was the first tree from North America to be introduced to Europe when French explorers brought the tree to Paris. The tree became a valuable asset when it was discovered that a tea made from the bark and leaves cured scurvy. In fact, the oil from these trees is still used today for medicinal purposes. This is perhaps partly why it received the name “arborvitae,” meaning “tree of life” in Latin. These trees symbolize strength, long life, and everlasting friendship. During New Year’s celebrations in China, the aromatic branches are used as good luck charms.
Southern Magnolia: This tree is both a flowering tree and an ornamental tree, with a name that is somewhat misleading. Although it is most commonly found in the South—and the state tree of Mississippi—the planting range means it can successfully grow in many northern areas as well.
As an ornamental, it provides year-round foliage and large flowers in late spring; the blossoms have a rich fragrance and can grow as large as 12 inches in diameter.
Magnolia trees are a resilient species that have evolved and adapted to changing climates and geological conditions. It, therefore, makes sense that this tree is considered symbolic of endurance, eternity, and long life.
Southern Magnolias herald the arrival of spring when they bloom; they are thought to symbolize purity due to the white color of their blossoms. The flowers are often used in weddings, representing the innocence of the bride in her bouquet, but also due to the fact that the hardiness of the tree symbolizes durability and strength of character. Other meanings include perseverance, dignity, nobility, and a love of nature,
Maple: Every fall, maple trees remind us why we planted them. The spectacular colors brighten everything around them, displaying different shades of gold, crimson, orange, and even pink. But these trees can also offer bright new leaves in early spring and plenty of shade in summer, making them very popular landscaping trees. Maples come in all shapes and sizes, so there are many options for different outdoor environments.
The Japanese Maple is one variety that is commonly used for landscaping purposes. It has long played an important role in Asian gardening, art, and culture, and has been considered a symbol of grace for hundreds of years.
Associated with peace and serenity, Japanese maples represent balance and practicality and are called “kito” in the Japanese language, which means calm, rest, or at peace. They can grow as tall as 25 feet, with dwarf varieties maturing around 2 feet tall, making them favorable for many different outdoor and garden settings.
The Sugar Maple, meanwhile, produces a sweet sap that can be used for syrup and is considered a symbol of success and abundance. In folklore, maples were believed to repel demons and evil spirits, and passing a young child through the branches of a maple tree was thought to encourage good health and longevity of life for the child. It is also known as the tree of tolerance. In China, maple is associated with honor.
Birch: With beautiful, papery bark and light-hued coloration, birch trees are aesthetically lovely and naturally become the center of attention in a landscape. They are popular landscaping trees due to their graceful shapes, small stature, white trunks, and distinctive peeling bark. There are over 60 different birch varieties, but some are more commonly seen on lawns and in gardens. One example is the River Birch, which is fast-growing and can achieve heights of 40 feet; another is the Gray Birch, which often has multiple trunks and doesn’t grow quite as tall.
Birch trees have important symbolic meaning in many cultures ranging from renewal and new beginnings to stability and structure. In Celtic mythology, the birch is associated with the sun and encourages passion, energy, and growth. In European cultures, it is associated with the hearth and home, and the best brooms are thought to have birch branches at the end to “sweep away” negative energy. In Chinese traditions, Birch is honored for its attributes of protection, communication, and rejuvenation.
Almost any type of tree could have an interesting history or symbolism associated with it, so it’s worth looking up when selecting the next type for your home. In addition to the physical beauty of a tree or the shade and privacy it offers, it may just represent something you consider near and dear, too.
If you have questions about which tree to plant in your yard or are looking for a local tree maintenance company, reach out today for our services.