Trees planted in home gardens add much aesthetic value to the wider landscape beautifying a city tremendously.
Even the most compact garden can benefit from a small upright tree. A well placed tree can provide privacy from neighbours or the street, shade from hot summer sun and shelter from wind.
Deciduous (lose their leaves in winter) trees arguably make some of the best trees for home gardens as by losing their leaves for the winter months, this allows more light into the yard during the dull months when otherwise yards would be fairly dark and damp.
Tree Maintenance for deciduous trees should be done in the winter months. In winter the outline of an established deciduous tree can be assessed. It should have an even shape overall, not too much weak, twiggy growth, and light and air freely circulating amongst the branches.
If there is much congested growth it may be necessary to remove up to one third of the inward growing branches. When removing a branch make a sloping saw cut close to (not flush with) the trunk leaving the collar at the base of the branch intact.
If you have trees that have suffered wind or other damage, always clean up the jagged end of a branch as any untidy wound may admit decay and unwanted organisms. Saw the end off or remove the branch ensuring that you make a clean cut with a saw, loppers or secateurs and then treat the wound with pruning paste to ensure it does not become a point for infection.
Trees growing in a lawn with the grass growing right up to the trunk can deplete the tree of nourishment. A traditional practice is to mark out a circle with string or similar about 1m in diameter around the trunk and remove all grass within it. Feed, water and mulch the soil around the tree. Always use a balanced NPK fertiliser such as Osmocote in easy to use granular form.
Where established trees are performing poorly they may be undernourished especially if they are quite old. The youngest most efficient roots will be found at the perimeter of the root ball, or at the trees drip-line where rain water naturally sheds from the tree.
Extra nutrients should be concentrated here. Mark out a circle a little beyond the outside edge of the leaf canopy. Alternatively scatter fertiliser around the drip-line.
Here are some top performing smaller growing deciduous trees (3-6 metres) that are particularly suitable for compact city gardens;
Cercis Canadensis 'Forest Pansy'
'Forest Pansy' is one of the most striking and popular smaller trees. Leaves develop from deep wine red to dark purple in spring maturing to a bronzy-green through summer and a blaze of reds in autumn. In spring it becomes a total mass of pale, rose pink pea shaped flowers. The tree grows about 3x3m in 5 years and 5m x 4m in 10 years
Silk Tree (Albizzia julibrissin)
A hardy tree with graceful, rich green fern like leaves which fold up at night. During summer rounded fluffy brushes of pink stamens like the fuzz of silk appear in great masses above the leaf canopy. Winter reveals a picturesque pattern of branches. It makes an excellent shade or screen tree for outdoor living areas. It typically grows 5m x 4m in 10 years.
This small tree produces a mass of deep velvety cup shaped blooms from early spring and through summer changing through shades of rich purple and red, developing delicate pink edges. It develops a tight pyramidal habit 3.5m x 2m and is the perfect tree for the small garden. Prefers moist, fertile, well drained soils in a position that has full sun for at least half the day.
Dwarf Flowering Cherry 'Jims Delight'
A small growing flowering cherry that is a compact deciduous tree growing about 2m x 2m in 10 years. It flowers in early spring with warm pink blossom and heavier flowering on second year wood.
Have a great week!
Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre