Can I plant trees close to my house?

Planting trees in close to your home and windows helps to give you a window into your woodland.

Planting trees in close to your home and windows helps to give you a window into your woodland.

Trees planted close to windows create rooms with a view

You shouldn’t have to step outside to enjoy your Woodland and wildlife garden. By creating impressive views from inside your home, the garden and its wildlife always has a presence.

Whether it’s a full fledged Woodland that stretches out as far as the eye can see, or a smaller area in your garden, consider finding ways to welcome it into your home.

In winter, you’ll appreciate looking out at the birds flitting from branch to branch. In spring, you might be lucky enough to watch a pair of cardinals build a nest and raise their young.


There are plenty of ways to bring the outdoors in, but I find planting trees, shrubs, grasses, ground covers and flowers close to the windows in our one-storey house to be the best way to experience the woodland garden at all times.

Looking out and seeing birds in the branches just outside the window is such a pleasant experience compared to looking out over a sea of grass with gardens in the distance.

I also don’t worry about tree roots invading our basement. I am aware that this can and does occur at times – mostly in 100-plus year old homes with massive oak trees or maples planted very close to the home. By planting trees with less aggressive rooting systems, these problems can be averted.

A few good trees to plant near a home include birches, various forms of apple including crabapples, dogwoods, Japanese maples and hawthorn trees.

Trees to keep away from your home’s foundation include silver maple, poplars and white ash.

Our trees are far enough away that I am not concerned that they will ever get large enough to do any damage to the foundation of the home. Besides, I won’t probably be around by the time that occurs. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy feeling one with nature.


Getting up close and personal

There are many ways to get up close and personal with nature.

Some involve constructing outdoor structures … or building expensive three- and four-season rooms that reach into your garden and surround you with your woodland in a climate-controlled, mosquito-free environment.

Perfect, but often very pricey.

It’s a whole lot easier and much less expensive to simply take advantage of what’s already staring you in the face.

Existing windows and doors are an opportunity many gardeners overlook when it comes to maximizing their gardens. It’s not enough to simply look out over the garden, try to bring the woodland in close to give you an intimate window into the goings on in your garden. Birds flitting from branch to branch or a mother feeding her young just on the other side of the window provides all the entertainment you need over your morning coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Create vignettes outside your windows

Similar to indoor decorating, look to create vignettes on the outside that you can appreciate from inside.

French doors, for example, provide the perfect opportunity to create a beautiful vignette just outside the doors.

Outside our family room French door is a beautiful copper birdbath, a small concrete bench, a container full of annual flowers as well as a beautiful flowering Cornus Kousa. A small flagstone pathway gives the viewers’ eyes a view past a rose bush and into the main garden.

From the couch in the family room, I can watch a steady procession of birds at the birdbath and admire the beautiful view of the flowering dogwood. In winter the birdbath is heated to continue to provide entertainment while giving the birds vital fresh water and a bathing opportunity even in the dead of winter.

In your garden, it may be nothing more than a grouping of pots filled with colourful plants or dramatic grasses, garden art or a simple bird bath, or water feature that you can appreciate from both indoors and out.

Five ways to bring the Woodland inside:

• Spend time standing at or looking out the windows of your home in every season and dream of what you might want to view. Then make it happen

• Plant trees or clumps of trees close to your home outside windows and doors to give you intimate views of nature from inside your home.

• Plan a lovely vignette outside your favourite window.

• If you have a window overlooking a neighbour, consider planting cedars. Make sure they are either native white cedar, black cedar or a cultivar that is loose and natural feeling. Some of the cedars sold at nurseries are more ornamental and not really the best for hedging. The best cedars grow taller than a fence, provide year-round interest and attract birds both as nesting areas and food sources. Hang a small feeder nearby for even more entertainment.

• If you need new windows or doors, take advantage of the opportunity by either increasing the amount of glazing (glass) or using a French door or sliders over a standard door. Maximize your view and then create the view you dream of through landscaping.

Wise words from a professional landscaper

A landscape professional once told me that a good landscape allows people to live in it not just admire it from afar.

It’s an approach we all need to consider more carefully when we create our landscapes. Planting trees or shrubs close to windows and places where we spend the most time is a sure fire way to fully experience our gardens.

Natural tree canopies replace umbrellas

Why use a massive garden umbrella to give you shade from the afternoon sun, when a large tree canopy can do it with greater style? Plant that tree now and by the time it provides you with the canopy you desire, your existing umbrella will need replacing.

We are lucky enough to have large windows in both the front and back of our ranch-style home. In addition, to open the garden up even more, every exterior door has been converted to either have a large window or turned into a French door for maximum viewing.

To some extent, our gardens are designed around the windows.

Our large front picture windows look out onto a grassless woodland setting that includes, among other plants and trees, Japanese maples, a lovely serviceberry, fully mature Crimson and red maples as well as our neighbour’s large blue spruce trees.

But it’s our view out into the back garden that best illustrates our attempt to bring the Woodland indoors.

Creating a view: Designing a dry-river bed

After years of looking out a large dining room bay window into our back garden, it donned on me that we really needed to create an interesting view that we could appreciate year round.

The view had always begged for something special, but I could never decide how best to use the space. 

Over the years, it primarily served as our main bird- and deer-feeding stations. The birds and deer provided plenty of entertainment, but it was time for a change.

Although it was completed just three years ago, it’s fair to say this project was years in the making.

It began with a plan to create a dry-river bed that connected to an existing pathway of river rock, pea gravel and flagstone stepping stones – a landscaping project my wife and I completed many years earlier. I liked the look and feel of the existing pathway and thought it would be good to bring that same feeling out into the landscape.

Since a bubbling rock has always been a dream of mine, we incorporated a small solar powered pump with a bubbling rock at the head of the dry-river bed. The idea was coming together in my mind but it needed more to make it look natural and bring it together as a cohesive landscape.

Eventually, after combing Pinterest for dry-river ideas, the concept of a bubbling rock and dry river bed running through a forest of birch trees was born.

Soon after, three clump birches were planted in the area around where the dry river bed would eventually go. The bubbling rock and dry river bed followed.

Grasses, ground covers and native flowers have been added since then to soften the hard edge of the river bed rocks and, three years later, the entire project is beginning to settle nicely into the landscape.

The birches seem happy and the branches are growing together creating a lovely birch-grove canopy over the bubbling rock and dry river bed.

Together, the tree canopy and fresh moving water attract plenty of birds, chipmunks and red squirrels that come in for a taste of the cool water rising up from the underground and spilling over the rock into the river rock below. I have even seen toads and snakes visiting the area.

Add solar lights for night views

At night, three solar-powered spotlights on the birch clumps allow us to enjoy our birch grove at all times, whether we are sitting outside or inside at the dining room table.

In fact, the lighted birch grove is the last thing I see every night and never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Now is the perfect time to consider creating vignettes outside your windows and doors to bring your Woodland garden into your home. I guarantee it’ll bring a smile to your face every day.

I would love to hear from you on how you were able to take advantage of existing windows and doors to create a dream view.

Take a few minutes to share your thoughts down below and inspire others to bring their Woodland indoors.

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Vic MacBournie

Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and shares his photography with his readers.

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