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.
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
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