Neighbors can be wonderful–it’s great to have someone to visit with over the fence, someone to get your mail while you’re gone and a friend to share a good laugh with. But even if you have great neighbors, sometimes you just need a little privacy.

If your patio or backyard could benefit from a little bit of a privacy block between you and the neighbors–or if you’d just like some shade or structure to your backyard landscaping–there are some great trees you can use to add interest and function to your yard. Here are a few of our favorites at Vander Giessen’s.

First, dogwood trees are incredibly showy in spring or early summer–but did you know that there are different types beyond just pink and white? I’m not talking strictly about color, but rather size and blooming season. If you’re looking for a dogwood to provide flowers in mid-spring and grow to provide shade for your backyard, choose a variety like ‘Florida Pink’ or ‘Eddie’s White Wonder.’ These trees will fill out to 25-30 feet tall, so be sure to plant them away from your house!

If you enjoy the look of dogwoods but simply don’t have the space for something that large, consider a ‘Kousa’ variety. Topping out at 10-12 feet tall and only 6-8 feet wide, ‘Kousa’ dogwoods are great for smaller spaces. Available in either pink or white, these trees bloom later in the spring or even in early summer, which makes them standout trees since most other flowering varieties in our area are long-since finished blooming.

‘Japanese Snowbell’

Another great flowering tree to provide shade and interest to your yard is Styrax, commonly called ‘Japanese Snowbell.’ In early summer, bell-shaped white blossoms coat the branches of the tree, exuding a wonderful, jasmine-like fragrance. When it’s not in bloom, ‘Japanese Snowbell’ continues to provide beautiful structure with its horizontal branching and bright green leaves. Though it’s slow-growing, give it room–eventually it will grow up to 20 feet tall!

If flowering trees aren’t your cup of tea and you’d rather enjoy foliage color and interest, use Japanese maples. With literally hundreds of varieties in cultivation today, there’s something out there for everyone. A couple of our favorites at Vander Giessen’s are:

  • ‘Bloodgood’–its wine-colored leaves fade to red in fall.
  • ‘Sango Kaku’–with red bark in winter, chartreuse leaves in spring and summer and golden-orange foliage in fall, it’s a standout year-round. 
  • ‘Ukigumo’–also known as ‘Floating Cloud,’ it boasts white foliage speckled with green, great to brighten up a shady corner in the yard.
‘Ukigumo’ Japanese Maple

Japanese maples grow at different rates and to different sizes, but most upright varieties top out in the 15- to 20-foot range, so be sure to keep them out from under the eaves of your house. Planted near a house, however, is generally fine–they’ll provide shade and structure without damaging your foundation.

Finally, an easy-to-love tree that can provide shade and beautiful seasonal color is ‘Katsura.’ Filling out to 25 feet tall and 15-20 feet wide, it’s sure to provide shade without overwhelming a yard. In spring, its leaves emerge with a bronze hue, aging to a rich deep green. Come autumn, the leaves turn a beautiful butter yellow before dropping. One often-overlooked aspect of ‘Katsura’ is that the leaves typically shrivel up to such a small size that raking after they drop is virtually unnecessary!

‘Katsura’ fall color

Whether you enjoy spring flowers, summer beauty or fall color, there are many great options for you to enjoy as a privacy screen or shade tree in your backyard this summer. Remember, with proper watering, you can plant all summer long and let your new tree benefit from warm soil to quickly root out into. Stop by Vander Giessen’s today to see what beautiful tree would best suit your yard!