Designing an eye-catching, functional and low-maintenance patio is about much more than just setting the stone and deciding on furniture; it's also about selecting the right trees to go around it. The right trees can give the patio a comfortable, welcoming air, but it's important to not just look at the appearance of the trees. Some trees can be messy, and cleaning up the patio every time anyone wants to use it isn't convenient.
Not all trees are suitable for inclusion in the landscaping near a back porch or patio. They may give too much or not enough shade, be too big or too small. One of the biggest concerns is how messy they are; messy trees can not only be an inconvenience, but do damage as well.
All deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, but that doesn't make a messy tree. More than losing leaves, some trees drop seeds or seed packets throughout the summer. Others drop fruits or drip sap. Those that drip sap can create a mess that takes much more than a leaf blower to clean up; no one wants to sit down for their morning coffee and stick to their chair.
Before selecting a tree, research how large it will get and whether or not it will drop anything on to a patio. Some examples of messy trees to be avoided as patio accents include the hackberry, which not only produces messy fruits but also attracts birds, causing an entirely new mess to clean from the patio. The Virginia pine produces pine cones that will drop, and those cones are sharp and prickly. The Chinaberry and Chinese tallowtree drop not only fruit, but twigs and branches as well.
Some trees, such as the weeping willow, are messy in another way. This tree, along with varieties such as the black willow and silver maple, are so delicate that a strong wind, rain or snow can damage the trees and litter the ground with broken branches.
Some trees are more than just an inconvenience, and can cause damage to a patio, deck, and anything else that is underneath. For example, the mulberry drops fruits that will leave black stains on whatever they fall and break on.
Other sap-producing trees can also cause damage. Sap is a sticky substance that will adhere to anything it comes in contact with. This is particularly a problem when these trees are placed around patios, where they can drip sap on anything from grills and smokers to tables, chairs and the people sitting outside. Another reason to avoid these trees is that the sap attracts a number of different insects, creating even more of a problem.
Some messy trees are attractive, and can have other desirable traits that make them excellent trees for elsewhere in the yard. The mulberry is a self-fertilizing fruit tree that not only produces an abundance of fruit, but attracts and feeds local wildlife as well.
Consider a multi-layered approach to the trees in the backyard landscape. Place messier trees farther away from the patio. This may take some research, as trees like the black locust have seeds that are carried far by birds and the wind. Closer to the patio, select smaller, cleaner trees that will create a more low-maintenance area for the patio. Some, like the Amur maple, will be clean and beautiful year-round.
Some trees have been bred over the years to be less messy. Because many have other desirable traits in decorative trees, they have been engineered to stop some of their messy tendencies. One example is the crabapple. Older trees have a reputation for dropping small fruits, but newer varieties have smaller fruits that stay on the branches. When in doubt, research; not all previously messy trees are still nuisances.