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Choosing a Tree

Now that you’ve had a tree removed from your garden –or maybe you just have a space you’d like to use– how do you decide what tree is the best choice? A tree can make a beautiful addition to your garden but it is also one of the most important landscaping choices you will make.

The type of tree you choose can determine things such as the amount of light in your garden, the view you will have (or not have) and the overall aesthetic a feature like a tree will provide. To avoid long-term problems and the possibility of having a tree removed at a later stage never choose a tree unless you know how high and how wide it will reach at maturity.

So what to choose?

For the small to medium suburban gardens on Sydney’s North Shore a tree not exceeding more than about 6-8m in height is more than adequate. The next thing you need to determine is what you want from a tree to help narrow down your choices. Is it a deciduous tree you’re after, for that summer shade and warming winter sun? Or maybe an evergreen or two to block out an unattractive view or reduce some road noise? Maybe you want something ornamental to provide a feature with vibrant coloured leaves and/or flowers; in some cases even the bark can provide a striking feature too. Do you want it to be drought tolerant, or a tree that will attract birds and wildlife? Or both? There are numerous factors to consider. A tree will be with you for a very long time, so decide exactly what it is that you want before you make a decision.

Some other things to think about when making your choice are: any future pruning requirements –will it need to have branches removed, do you want it cut into a hedge or a standard shape, or do I want something that requires minimal attention but still looks good?. You also need to think about any root systems that may affect pipes and driveways, possible leaf litter (great for compost –not so great for pools!) and the effect a tree will have on your lawns and the other plants it may eventually shade.

Container grown trees can be planted at just about any time of the year. When planting always dig the hole it will go into at least twice the width of the container, add in some rich organic compost and some slow release fertilizer at the bottom –avoid contacting the roots with the fertiliser as it can burn them. Give it a good soaking and then water deeply every week, keeping the soil moist so the roots can establish themselves. A tree can take up to 12 months to establish itself so staking may be required.

Tree removal can usually open up the possibility of a new and exciting planting –but remember to consider why it was that you had a tree removed in the first place and make the right choice this time around.

Some trees/shrubs to consider:

A dwarf form eucalyptus like E. mannifera ‘Little Spotty’ –good for wildlife with its small white flowers in Spring/Autumn and its ornamental bark.
Banksia marginata is a variable species of Australian native, flowering from February to July.
Callistemon citrinus, or Bottlebrush, an Australian native of the myrtle family, a landscaping ‘all-rounder’ that attracts honey-eaters and has beautiful red, thread-like flowers. Very 1980’s but it’s making a comeback!
For Autumn colour its always hard to go past the Maple family. The Acer palmatum ‘Beni Kawa’ has the added bonus of fantastic scarlet, coral-like stems.
Pistacia chinensis, or Chinese Pistachio, a small to medium tree with attractive dark green foliage turning a brilliant red in autumn.
Pyrus calleryana – a small cultivar of the Manchurian Pear Pyrus ussuriensis has white flowers in spring and dense-forming dark green leaves that turn purple to red in autumn.
White Flowering Crepe Myrtle – Lagerstroemia fauriei ‘Kiowa’ – Heat and drought tolerant, develops sensational, ornamental bark as the tree matures along with its mass of white flowers.
A good evergreen can be any one of the many varieties of Lilly Pilly Acmena smithii or Syzygium australe. A fast growing Australian native that’s good for screening and hedges. Be careful however to choose a dwarf variety as some types of Lilly Pilly can grow up to 30m in height!

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