with Deryn Thorpe

Trees — the life of your garden


Now that autumn has arrived it is the perfect time to help the environment and add beauty to your life by planting a tree.

Autumn is the best season for establishing all trees, except those from tropical areas which are best planted in spring, as they get three seasons to establish their roots before the heat of summer.

Trees are not only handsome, they are essential to our lives as they clean our air, create oxygen and provide a habitat for wildlife.

Their cooling shade can be strategically positioned to cool our houses and allows us to enjoy the outdoors on a hot day. The temperature is always cooler beneath a tree as their leaves evaporate water which reduces the air temperature.

If you live in a cold climate then trees with dense foliage can make your home warmer by providing a sheltering screen that blocks out cold winter winds.

Trees create the air we breathe as their leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air and give off oxygen. The leaves also absorb air pollutants and filter dust which washes from the leaves to the ground with rain, making our environment healthier.

Fortunately, trees are available in a range of sizes and shapes so there is one suitable tree for every garden or courtyard.

When choosing a tree the most important consideration is whether you want a deciduous tree which will lose its leaves and let the winter sun warm your home in winter or an evergreen tree that will create a screen and privacy.

Deciduous trees drop their leaves as the day length gets shorter. These trees originated in cool climates where there was little winter light available for photosynthesis and so shed their leaves to live off the food they stored during summer.

Some deciduous trees have spectacular autumn foliage as before leaf drop the trees remove the green chlorophyll from the leaves and as this is drawn into the tree the yellow and orange colours in the foliage is revealed.

Other deciduous trees are grown for their attractive flower or delicious fruit.

Most popular evergreen trees, including Australian trees, are grown for their shape, foliage and flowers. If leap drop is an issue remember that deciduous trees tend to drop their leaves all at once but evergreen trees drop leaves year round.

If you have a small suburban garden it is best to choose a tree that grows to no more than 8 metres.

For those with a small outdoor space some trees are suitable for containers, which create an opportunity to add height to small courtyards or rental properties. When making a choice of tree look at the many dwarf forms of edible citrus and stone fruits available which are perfect for pots.

There are also tree selections that are narrow in shape, making them good for tight spots, such as the passageway between the house and fence.

All trees will require regular maintenance including watering over summer, fertiliser and mulch and some will require pruning.

If the availability of water is an issue consider planting trees that are native to your local area but always improve the soil with compost or soil conditioner, water over the first summer or until the trees are established and mulch the root zone.

Visit your local nursery and ask to be shown a range of trees suitable for your local conditions and available space.

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