Trees – a shady subject

Keith Mundy, The Spires Nursery

With summer heading our way I thought it timely to once again talk about shade trees.

Trees are probably the most important component of the landscape as they provide protection from the elements, add structure to a garden and provide habitat for wildlife.

Trees come in many shapes and forms whether evergreen or deciduous, short or tall and narrow and wide.

Careful consideration should be taken when selecting a tree for the location that is proposed, as trees are there for a long time.

It is most important when deciding whether to use a tree in a particular location, to look at a number of issues before the final selection is made.

Firstly, what do you require the tree to do? It can be to create shade for a particular style of garden that is shade in the summer and sun in the winter. It could be to screen out an eyesore in another location, or a tree to hang a swing off and the list goes on.

Providing shade in a garden to protect the western side of the home from hot summer sun is a very important consideration. A large deciduous tree can reduce the inside temperature of a home by several degrees in the summer. In the winter sun is allowed to warm the home when the tree is dormant. Consider though, the eventual size of the tree, so it doesn’t interfere with the home when fully mature. Plan for the tree to be one and a half times the distance of the eventual radius of the tree, from the roofline of the home.

Consideration of utility services like sewerage, water and power lines is most important.

Although I am a great lover of trees I firmly believe that a lot of our beautiful Australian native trees like Eucalyptus trees, are totally misused in the landscape. Some of these trees can grow to a massive size and can be fairly unstable in extreme weather conditions and therefore should be used wisely in the landscape. Thankfully the horticultural industry in recent years has developed a range of smaller mallee type trees and small grafted species that are fabulous for the home garden situation.

After the decision has been made to plant a tree in the garden the decision then is to the species. There are many new varieties that take into consideration small urban and town blocks and trees that cause very little problems to the gardener.

Some of my favourites include a number of varieties of ornamental pears, birches, pistacia and crab apples to name just a few.

Luckily all these trees are available all year around either open rooted in winter or containered in the warmer months. Planting at anytime of the year is alright as long as in the height of the warmer months, adequate water is applied to reduce transplant stress.

Talk to you friends about their experiences with trees, take a drive around the local community and observe what others have done or most importantly talk to your local nursery person for their advice.