Trees for Front Yards: Japanese Maple or Evergreen?

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There is something about a tree in a front yard that captures the essence of home. Trees bring color, charm and character to front-yard landscapes. Japanese maples and evergreens deliver on these qualities and characteristics beautifully. That is why they are always at the top of the list of trees that homeowners consider.

Japanese Maple Trees

  • Japanese maples are classic favorites for front yards. Homes in movies often have a Japanese maple in the front yard to personify the “average American home.” They bring color, texture, beauty and stature to a front yard. Japanese maples look forward to fall when they can show off vivid and intense colorations of red, yellow-orange, purple and gold.

    Mature trees grow to a height of 15 to 25-feet, depending on the variety, which is tall enough to make a statement without overshadowing or dwarfing your home. Popular red leaf varieties include Bloodgood (Acer palmatum “Bloodgood”) and Crimson Queen (Acer palmatum dissectum “Crimson Queen”). Look at the Dancing Peacock (Acer japonicum “Aconnitifolium”) for a green leaf choice, and Peaches and Cream (Acer palmatum “Peaches and Cream”)for a variegated Japanese maple.

Japanese Maple Considerations

  • The beautiful leaves on the branches and stems of a Japanese maple will also “beautify” your lawn. As winter approaches, hundreds of leaves will fall to the ground, requiring you and your family to rake and bag leaves several times during fall, or hire neighborhood kids or a lawn-care service to do the work for you. Other than that, Japanese maples are relatively low maintenance, easy to grow and a fine choice for an ornamental tree to landscape your front yard. They are generally cold tolerant to about 20 degrees F, and grow best in USDA planting zones 5 through 9.

Evergreen Trees

  • The major advantage of going with an evergreen for your front yard is variety. Evergreens include everything from junipers and varieties that remind you of Christmas -- to waxy-leaved flowering magnolias reminiscent of the South. This means that if you go with an evergreen, you will have many choices.

    You can grow a “live fence” with junipers and cypress trees that will also serve as windbreakers along your property line. Or, you can indeed go for an evergreen tree such as a pine or spruce and start a family tradition of lighting an outdoor Christmas tree right in your front yard. Use your USDA planting zone as an initial guide for selecting evergreens appropriate for the sunlight and soil conditions of your front yard.

Evergreen Considerations

  • While the upside to evergreens is variety -- the downside is also variety. Each tree will have its own special needs, so be prepared to factor in the type of tree that will work best in your climate and planting zone, your soil conditions, the tree’s growth rate and the amount of time the tree will require for care and maintenance. For example, if you select a tree that produces berries, keep in mind that berries are favorite foods for birds. While this may seem beautiful and eco-friendly, keep in mind that when one bird finds a tree with berries, he will invite all his bird friends over to your house for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And after each meal, you know just what they will leave all over your front yard. Always weigh the pros and cons of the variety of evergreen you have your eyes on before you make your purchase.

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