Gardening / No better time to plant a tree

A maple in autumn… maples are renowned for their autumn colour.

A LEAFLET was produced by the inimitable Peter Sutton in 1980 for the then City Parks Administration entitled a “Guide to the City’s Colourful Trees”.

Cedric Bryant.

At that time we had a proper city parks department with each suburb having its own works depot. The dedicated staff of the time took great pride in aiming to make their suburb the best looking.

It was claimed that with the intense planting of ornamental trees Canberra has possibly the largest range of urban tree species in the world. The emphasis was on trees to provide spring blossoms, summer shade and autumn leaf colour.

Today, the pathetic size of blocks and even the width of nature strips result in little room for any variety of tree. However, if you have space for even one tree you will be assisting in the health of our environment and the uplifting of your suburb.

Autumn is the perfect time to be planting all trees and shrubs. Keeping this in mind, I have listed a selection of what I call “small trees for small gardens”.

  • Syringa meyeri “Josee Dwarf” is a relatively new variety of lilac and different to most varieties in that once flowering has finished it will bloom again after pruning. Growing to 1.5-2 metres tall, although it can be kept lower, it has an abundance of lilac-pink flowers. Overseas it is a popular hedge plant.
  • There is a magnificent range of new Lagerstroemia or crepe myrtles, especially the varieties with purple leaves under the collective name of L. ”Diamonds in the Dark”. The individual names indicate the colours, ie L. “White”, L. “Blush Pink”, L. “Crimson Red”. Allow 2×2 metres for their growth.
  • Maples are renowned for their autumn colour such as Acer palmatum “Villa Taranto”, a small, dome-shaped tree to 2×2-metres. A.p. “Bonfire”, as the name suggests, has brilliant foliage in spring and autumn.
  • Malus “Gorgeous”… pink flowers in spring followed by bright red fruit in autumn.

    Crabapples are some of the hardiest ornamental trees with Malus “Tom Matthews” having stunning pink flowers followed by dark purple-red fruit. This is followed by spectacular red, yellow and orange leaves in autumn. The variety for making crabapple jelly is Malus “Gorgeous”, growing slightly larger, 3×3 metres, with pink flowers in spring followed by bright red fruit in autumn.

These are just a few of an enormous range of trees renowned for their autumn colour to tempt you to plant one now.

NOT everyone shares my enthusiasm for autumn colour. For example, Charles Quest-Ritson, author of “The Encyclopedia of Roses” for the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society naturally loves roses. Writing in “Country Life” magazine he says: “Autumn colour? Bah! I do not see the point of autumn leaf colour. Most people have gardens too small for any trees for autumn leaves.

“Gardening is all about growth – celebrating the beauty of plants and flowers. So it seems ghoulish to be celebrating in the death throes of leaves of trees in autumn.

“And as for those boring, dead-looking grasses! In autumn I would rather see the last of the roses, Michaelmas daisies and the magnificent displays of dahlias and chrysanthemums”. Maybe he has a point.


  • Plant broad beans, chives, onions (transplanting seeds and seedlings) and peas.
  • Pine needles make ideal mulch, especially the decomposing ones underneath the top, loose ones. Being acid, they are perfect for daphne, azaleas, rhododendrons and all other acid lovers.
  • It is still not too late to sow sweet peas into a rich organic soil. Water in with Maxicrop Seaweed Plant Food to encourage root growth.
  • Keep feeding those winter flowering annuals, a weak solution once a week.

One Response to “Gardening / No better time to plant a tree”

  1. JZ
    May 21, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    Hi Bryant, do you think that Canberra can grow loquat tree? if so, what are the tips? Many thanks!

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