Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Tree, a Bush or a Shrub

Tree Forms
Trees and shrubs come in different shapes and sizes, and have different designations, although all are woody ornamentals. Crabapple LandscapExperts take advantage of this variation in our landscape planning. 

The word ‘tree’ brings to mind a tall, woody, permanent (perennial) plant with a main trunk and heavy branches forming a raised crown of twigs and leaves. Both gymnosperms (cone-bearing) and angiosperms (flowering plants) can grow in a tree form. Southern Sugar Maple is a typical example with a single trunk and a rounded crown.  Southern Magnolia offers evergreen color and fragrant flowers in spring. 

Contrast this with a bush or a shrub. Scratch that; the term ‘bush’ is strictly non-scientific and colloquial, and although in conversation people use the words interchangeably, it is shrubs we wish to discuss.
Shrub forms 

The gestalt or overall concept of a ‘shrub’ is a low, woody, perennial plant with several woody stems coming up from the ground, and is very different from a tree. An extreme example is a dwarf Helleri holly with a characteristic mounding or pillowing habit, making this compact, multi-branching shrub with its mushroom shape distinctive in the landscape. Perhaps a more typical example of an upright, multi-branched shrub would be a boxwood.

But as Crabapple LandscapExperts know, Nature does not like black and white but prefers countless  shades of gray. And so there are multi-trunked trees like Birch and Willow, and also low-growing "bushy" trees that branch near ground level such as dissected-leaf Japanese maples. 

Multi-trunked, low-growing Dissected-leaf Japanese Maple 
Tall single-trunked trees
As well, there are shrubs that can be grown with only one trunk like tree-form Hydrangeas or even Crape Myrtles. Some shrubs are very tall  such as the lily-flowered Magnolias or Serviceberries (Amelanchier) 

Trees are permanent fixtures that define the landscape and offer shade, windbreak, ornament and even fruit. Shrubs anchor the landscape with their multitude of sizes, forms, leaf- and twig-colors and flowering habits. Evergreens in either category provide stability and winter color. Each has an important role and Crabapple can help you care for them so that they will increase in beauty over time. 

Digging Deeper 
There’s a mind-blowing discussion at  


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  2. shrub pruning is generally performed when they begin to look untidy. Ideally, this service is performed between late spring and late summer tree doctor kingwood.