Most people love the scenic beauty of trees in the landscape, what would be a landscape without them? They improve the quality of air we breathe and they beautify our homes, parks cities and landscapes.

But, when you are planting them in your garden they can also block drains, cast shadows, hide important views, undermine walls and foundations and cause a real headache. That is why it is vital that you choose the right tree, for the right place and take responsibility for ensuring your own trees do not cause problems for anyone else now or in the future.

What to consider

In a small suburban garden, trees provide structure and height. However there are a few things to think about before rushing out and buying just any old tree to put in the backyard. If there’s a major mistake people make in their gardens, is that they seem to forget that plants grow! So consider carefully the mature size and shape of the trees you want to plant. It’s best to consult with your landscape designer, or staff at your local garden centre to help you choose the right tree for your particular situation.


Screening and privacy

Trees can provide privacy for your home and outdoor living areas. Evergreen trees are best if you require screening. However, you do need to be very careful about what type of tree you plant. Planting a tree that eventually grows too big for the space or is too close to you or your neighbours house can cause problems. If the trunk of the tree extends over the boundary, this does not give you the right to chop it down. A tree planted on your neighbour’s land belongs to them, and they will be liable for any damage it causes. If your neighbour’s tree is causing problems, the first step is to talk to them. A mutually agreeable solution will almost certainly be preferable to a lengthy and costly legal battle.

Also see Boundary disputes between neighbours and

Tip: Plant trees or shrubs on the south side of your house, they will help to filter and divert southerly winds.

Silt Tree

Provide shade

Deciduous trees will provide shade in summer but allow sun through in winter. Evergreens on the other had provide year round shade. Keep in mind the type of deciduous tree you plant. The leaf drop can prove to be a lot of work if leaves fall into your gutters, swimming pools and onto paved areas. Evergreens provide structure in the garden, however they do cast a shadow. So once again carefully consider the location of the tree, so you are not blocking out valuable light indoors.

Tip: Albizzia julibrissin, or Silk tree is a favourite shade tree for small gardens in warm climates. Its umbrella like form offers shade and has the added bonus of outstanding pink fluffy flowers and attractive ferny foliage.



New Zealand’s varied climate means there is an extraordinary choice of trees for your garden, for every season. Trees when accompanied with other shrubs and flowers help to create an impressive garden for any site or situation. Some bring dramatic seasonal colour to gardens. Others provide year-round interest with colorful bark, flowers, leaves or fruit. Many of our native trees such as Vitex lucens, Puriri – Metrosiderous spp, Pohutukawa – Sophora, Kowhai and Cordyline australis, Cabbage tree, are important foods sources for birds, so play an important role in attracting birds back into an urban garden.

Tip: If you are limited for space, try pleaching. This is the practice of pruning trees to create decorative standard hedges. The advantage is you can control the height and width of trees, without blocking all your light and sun. Good trees to pleach are Alnus jorulensis – Evergreen Alder, Olea spp – Olive, Alectryon excelus -Titoki and Carpinus betulinus – Common Hornbeam.

Top ten trees for small gardens

• Acer palmatum spp – Maple tree

• Magnolia ‘Little Gem’

• Pohutukawa ‘Light house’

• Hymenosporum flavum – Australian frangipani

• Mertya sinclairii – Puka

• Albizia julibrissin – Silk tree

• Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’

• Sophora microphylla – Kowhai

• Alectryon excelus – Titoki

• Prunus lusitanica – Portugal Laurel

Some Suggested Links

The Beauty of Trees Gallery Plants & Nurseries
Garden Centres & Nurseries

Tree Services

Sandra Batley of Flourish is a multi award-winning landscape designer based in Auckland. Sandra is passionate about, people, plants and design.

13 comments on “THE BEAUTY OF TREES

  1. gaylene on said:

    We live in Papamoa and our newly planted Titoki tree has dropped most of its leaves. Obviously stressed for some reason. What can we do to assist it and save it from dying??

  2. Hi Gaylene,

    Make sure that the Titoki has not been planted too deep and that mulch or soil is not around the base of the plant. Also what type of soil is it planted in? Have you used any fertiliser as this may have burned the roots??


    Tim Durrant

  3. Dwayne on said:

    Hi there, planted 3 titoki trees all about 2 metres tall and about 80 percent of the leaves have fallen off but now seem stable:-( . I used compost and slow release fertilizer so not to sure why they are stressed. Do you think it will take years for them to recover or should i take them out and replant a tree that isn`t so tempermentel? Thanks

  4. Hi Dwayne,

    Sounds like they went into shock when they were planted – if they are stable they will come back and should be ok. Don’t over water and hopefully the slow release fertiliser was not too close to the roots.

    Let me know how you get on.


    Tim D

  5. Hi Tim,
    We have a holiday place in Kuratau, Taupo and have a Pohutukawa Tree up there. It’s leaves are turning brown and it appears to be dying, is there anything we can do to reviive it?
    Cheers, Lucy

  6. Hi
    My 3 x Titoki are about 2 years old and doing fine in the main. One however has some dying branches, whilst other parts of it have new growth. Can you help?
    Thanks for any help.

  7. marita Ani on said:

    Hello Gaylene,
    I have planted 12 pencil pines which are now about a 1m tall. My problem is that 2 of the trees have what looks like a scorching or dry off near the top on one and down one side on the other. Is there any thing I can do to fix this if not is there any thing I can do to prevent the others going the same way?

  8. Hi. I have two Titoki tress – planted 1 year ago. When planted were about 2 meters tall. Just in the last few months the leaves have turned brown and fallen off. The top of the trees is the worst with upper branches being bare, middle branches have brown leaves and the bottom branches are o.k. I did fertilise them about 5 months ago – may have over done it? Also it’s been very hot and dry here lately and I haven’t been watering them. Lots of other trees around them are all fine. Should I start watering them? Perhaps dig them up and change the soil? Any advice gratefully appreciated? Thanks, Roger

  9. Bubblegumjeans on said:

    Hi – we have recently transplanted a couple of Titokis but one of them that was lovely and green has gone all over brown and the leaves are curling.  Is it sulking or am I loosing it?  I planted it in garden mix + compost with a slow release fert tablet.  It was planted too low previously so when we replanted it we made sure we didn’t make the same mistake.  With this spring weather do I keep it well watered or not too much?

  10. Sandra on said:

    I have a Puka tree in my Auckland garden. In some places the leaves are turning brown and on closer inspection it appears that toward the end of the branches the bark has been ‘eaten away’ right around the branch as if it has been ringbarked. Any clues/remedies?

  11. Alison & Stephen Faulkner on said:

    Hi there, we have bought a property in Mangere Bridge and there is a Titoki “seedling” that is too close to the house and about 2 metres tall. It is right on the boundary and we would like to transplant it as it is growing on the road of it’s namesake. Is it worth our while or will we be disappointed? Thanks for this,

  12. If it is in the wrong place it needs to be removed anyway. If you are careful and do not disturb the roots (especially the fine roots) then it should transplant well. Make sure you plant it at teh same depth that it was and water it in (this ensured that all the soil gets back around the roots and does not leave air cavities. Stake gently to acvoind wind rock and talk to it nicely – it should be fine.


    Tim (ed)

  13. Also with a spade you can cut around the root zone (like a large pot) and leave it for a month or so to get used to the idea of moving.

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