Trees take gardens to new heights

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Always look for a strong straight trunk when planting trees.

Gardening columnist CEDRIC BRYANT regularly gets requests on how to plant a tree and what type is best for the home garden.

A GARDEN is not really a garden without trees, with their beauty of the changing seasons from blossoms to leaf colour. 

Cedric Bryant.

So, while planting a tree might seem obvious to most gardeners, I regularly get requests on how to do it and what type of tree is best for the home garden.

These questions get more difficult every year as the size of building blocks shrink from the old quarter acre (about 800 square metres) down to only 270 square metres. For trees on this size block, forget it! 

However, there are still reasonable block sizes where it is possible to plant a tree or two. 

WHEN a person plants a tree they, in effect, accept responsibility for that tree, which can live to an incredible age. 

From planting day, the tree will rely on its “surrogate parent”, the planter. 

It needs to be nurtured with food and water on a regular basis until it is well established, as well as formative pruning and shaping. Maybe then the tree will be able to survive on its own.

In private gardens, trees have a reasonable chance of surviving to adulthood. A garden needs shade not only for us but for many plants and, most importantly, cleaning the air we breathe. The most important aspect of growing trees is planting the right tree in the right place. 

But before planting a tree, other considerations need to be taken into account.

With, say, a new home, the owner should have received plans showing the location of all services such as gas, water and sewerage pipes, telephone and electricity lines. 

In older homes these services may be hard to locate and it may need a call to the Dial-Before-You-Dig program. Also power and phone lines may be above ground. 

Anyone considering buying an older home should check the size of existing trees. They may look wonderful, providing shade for the children to play etcetera, but look to see if they are located near overhead power lines. It can be very expensive to have an arborist to clear the lines, maybe on a regular basis as the tree/s grow.

It is a requirement by Evoenergy to have a minimum of 1.5 metres clearance from power lines. I believe this should be at least 2 metres more as a tree may easily grow that much in less than a year. 

If trees are near power lines you must use an approved arborist, which Evoenergy can recommend.

TREES need space to grow to their full potential, so it’s vitally important to do your homework. Ask advice from your local garden centre and ask for a catalogue from Flemings Wholesale Nurseries, the largest tree growers in Australia, which shows the height and spread of trees. 

Work on the principle that as with most deciduous trees the height will equal the spread. If a tree grows to 10 metres tall, it will need to be planted no closer than 5 to 6 metres from the home or other buildings. 

A tall, whippy trunk will never make a good tree.

I HAVE mentioned only deciduous trees for home gardens, which provide shade in the summer and allow light in during the winter months, which is doubly important for anyone with solar panels on the roof. 

I have not mentioned eucalypts for the home garden due to the dangers of falling branches (or the whole tree) on the home and power lines. Evoenergy will verify that most power outages are caused by eucalypts. 

LOOK for trees with a good straight, strong trunk. If they are tall and whippy they will never grow into a strong well-shaped tree. 

Finally, I cannot over emphasise the importance of checking all services before planting and seek advice on the best tree for your garden.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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