Companion Planting: Trees

Ok. I know tomato plants like to have marigolds nearby to keep insects at bay and cover crops restore vital nutrients to the soil that other plants have depleted and that there is a whole science to companion planting, but I love to see trees keeping each other company. A walk in relatively undisturbed woods shows that trees grow close to each other if given the opportunity, not as single specimens plopped down in a yard or in carefully spaced designs that began on a landscape architect’s desk. They like to use each other for wind protection and, if people don’t meddle too much, they drop leaves and seeds to feed local wildlife,  to create soil, and to insure the next generation of trees. But sometimes they just seem to want to keep each other company. Case in point: the ancient Ginko at the Civic Garden Center and the not so old Magnolia.

I have no idea how these two got together…perhaps some landscaper planted them with companionship in mind, but I like to think that it is a more serendipitous relationship arranged by wind or bird. I love that the very old, majestic Ginko seems to be leaning protectively over the quite bright, big-leaved Magnolia.

I love that the Ginko is to the north of the Magnolia and probably helps break the iciest winds just a bit. And now that the leaves have begun to change, the Ginko is about to drop its gentle yellow halo around the base of the Magnolia as well as around its own. Stop by the Garden Center in the next few days to watch for this magic circle of yellow.

At our house there are two pines, planted many years ago by the original owner, probably as sentinels on either side of the front walk. I imagine that he trimmed them to identical rounded shapes each year, keeping them similar and tidy. Now, though, they have quite different characters, adapting to the available light and space and the current owners’ less severe trimming, but they still seem quite like companions screening the home they love.

Now that it is prime time to plant trees, you may want to create some companionships and see how they develop over the years. Or go for a walk and look for trees that have done so all on their own. It’s a matter of fit–some things just do, no matter where or over how long of a time.

Cindy Briggs

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