In my last post, I suggested not planting spicebush in front of a first-floor window due to its mature height, but is that advice based on a false assumption?
In this post, I explore that, because ultimately what matters is that your heart is touched by the beauty of your garden.
Memories of a Birch Tree
The house I grew up in had a gray birch (Betula populifolia) growing outside one of the large corner windows flanking two sides of the kitchen table.
In early spring, my view at breakfast was of dangling catkins, dancing in every breeze.
Then came the roughly heart-shaped leaves – beautifully semi-translucent in their youth, followed by the green of summer and the celebration of gold in fall.
In winter, its proximity to my mother’s bird feeder made the tree a popular landing spot for the myriads of black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, cardinals, and evening grosbeaks that visited.
I loved having that view to enjoy every morning.
And it was pleasant to look at from outside, too. The tree was snugged into the “ell” where house and patio met. A carpet of self-planted hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) grew underneath.
By the way, that’s another example of an extremely easy-care garden. Assuming it’s well-sited, a combination like that will require almost zero input from you once it’s established. You may have to weed in the beginning, but once they get going, the ferns create a highly effective, weed-suppressing, living mulch.
The View from the Bathroom Window
The Living Landscape by Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy is one of my favorite gardening books, one I make a point to revisit at least once a year. I benefit every time from the expertise of both authors and from Rick Darke’s keen eye for design.
Within this book, there is a two-page spread entitled, “How Many Birds Can One Tree Nourish?”
There, Professor Tallamy shares that “the bathroom has become the hottest birding destination in our house” thanks to an alternate-leaf dogwood he planted outside the bathroom window. Pictured are eleven of the twenty species seen in that tree (so far) eating either fruit or insects.
You Make the Rules
My point is that there’s no hard-and-fast rule to follow here. I personally wouldn’t block the view from multiple windows with foliage. But if doing so gives you a cozy, tree-house feeling, well, why not?
You’re the creative artist in your garden: your home, your heart, your eye for beauty. ❤️
So what gives your heart a warm, happy feeling? Do you like to feel hugged by the living architecture of a garden room? Or do you feel happiest in an open space? What about the feeling from a high vantage point versus a low one?
Does your heart sing when you smell the duff of and watch dapples of sunlight skip over a forest floor?
Do you long for the melody of splashing water?
Do you like to see the whole sky arch overhead or do you love to see a window of sky framed by the canopy? (There’s a vantage point from our patio where I get this window effect and I love it!)
The smaller your property, the more either/or choices you may have to make, but some version of what makes your heart kick up its heels with delight is possible, even on a budget.
A Word of Caution
When it comes to wielding your brush across the canvas of your garden, your design sense is (or should be, in my opinion) the ultimate arbiter of taste.
Still, as I have had to learn multiple times myself, you forget practical considerations at your peril.
Specific to this situation, it’s not good for the health of a building to have trees or shrubs growing right up against it.
Leaving a pathway three or four feet deep right up against the foundation simplifies maintenance and enhances airflow. Depending on your roofline, it may also minimize the risk of snow sliding off the roof and crushing the very shrub you’re trying to grow.
So if the idea of looking into a bush or tree from a window appeals to you, just remember the practical.
Keeping it Practical
First, make sure you know whether there are any underground utility lines to be aware of – you don’t want to plant something permanent right above them. You also really don’t want to hit a utility line. Call Dig Safe for free help.
But don’t dig just yet.
Instead, find out the mature spread of the tree or shrub you want to plant. Cut that in half to get the radius, then add a few feet to that measurement for your maintenance path.
Measure from the foundation of your house outward to mark your “no closer than that to the house” line. Next place a rope or something similarly flexible on the ground to mark that boundary.
Use a five-gallon bucket, a bag full of raked-up leaves, a lawn chair, or something similar as a quickie placeholder to check possible planting sites for your shrub or tree.
Walk around to view that placement from different angles. Move it to the left and right, further away from the house (but no closer), and so on. Each time you do this, recheck how it looks from various vantage points.
You’ll know when you find “the” spot, where your placeholder is most visually pleasing.
So that’s my side of the story, but before closing, I’d really love to hear from you!
Would you want the primary view from one or more of your windows to be a tree or shrub (and maybe visiting birds)?