Trees – for the future

Keith Mundy 

Continuing on from last month’s theme of autumn, April is usually the month that we start to notice the beautiful colours of the autumn trees that are dotted around the countryside with shades of vivid yellows, oranges and reds highlighting the gardens that they adorn. Not only are autumn trees grown for their beautiful colours but just as importantly they are also grown for summer shade. 

Care should be taken with the selection of these plants as many are very large trees with spreading roots and need a large garden to grow to their full potential. 

To help you make your selection, I suggest that you take a drive around the district and have a look at trees in parks and home gardens to see what they might look like. Generally, in this district, many of the shade trees have been growing for many years and have reached their ultimate size. By doing this before deciding, one will know for sure that a particular plant that is proposed for a spot in the garden will fit that site. If you are unsure of the species just grab a leaf or take a photo and show your local nursery person. They will soon identify the tree. 

Autumn colouring trees come in many forms and each one has a particular feature that makes it a bit more special than another variety. For instance, a Claret Ash is a large tree reaching in the vicinity of 15m tall by 12m wide and is more suited to a large space, well away from buildings. Its main feature is the beautiful claret-coloured foliage in autumn. On the other hand, a Chinese Pistacia is a smaller upright tree, growing to 8m high by 4m wide, with beautiful orange red foliage and is suited to a smaller garden and can be closer to a building. 

Deciduous trees also have different moisture requirements so planting trees requiring moisture in a dry garden can cause issues throughout summer or drier periods. An example of this is Silver Birch that prefers a higher level of moisture particularly in summer compared to a Desert Ash that prefers and copes better with a drier situation. 

When trees are used in the overall landscape of a garden, the siting is of absolute importance. A large tree can dominate a garden and can often restrict the growth of colourful shrubs that require full sun. If you have a small yard, choose a small tree to place on the north or the western side of the house. 

With the movement of population to small acreages I am often asked what I can suggest as a driveway tree or trees. Again, careful planning of the species used in this situation is very important. Availability of water, protection from animals and, as the tree grows, allowing enough room when the trees reach maturity to allow high vehicles like cattle trucks or furniture removal trucks to be able to access the driveway. 

In this case use more upright species like some of the newer varieties of ornamental pears that are more suited as they give you the height you require for the avenue effect but do not take up a lot of room. 

There are two forms of tree availability from nurseries – container grown or bare rooted. At this time of the year, you will only find container grown trees in nurseries and, although these might be a bit more expensive, the tree can actually be seen with leaves on and is generally alive and healthy. 

Care must be taken later in the season if you wait for the bare root specimens that the trees have been treated with care and have not been allowed to dry out possibly compromising their ability to re-shoot. 

Once your decision has been made, commence the site preparation with hole digging and composted manure added to the soil to give the trees a great start. 

If unsure about anything, always ask the professional at your local nursery.