A tree is a long-term investment, providing a lifetime of shade, beauty and habitat — so you want to make sure that you choose the one that best suits your situation.


Recently a client asked for help in choosing trees for a unit complex. The site’s towering eucalypts had been removed because the residents did not appreciate their continual leaf shed on to cars in the adjoining carpark, which blew into the swimming pool about 100m away. With the gums gone, the 6.5m-wide and 50m-long garden bed adjoining a pedestrian path to the units was hot and barren.


The residents wanted to replant the area with non-fruiting, waterwise trees that dropped minimal leaves, grew quickly, were low-maintenance and attractive. They asked for recommended evergreen trees as they assumed they would drop fewer leaves. However, I suggested that a deciduous tree could better fulfil the brief as they drop leaves over a few weeks rather than continually over the year, providing valuable shade in summer while letting warmth and light through in winter.


There was only one contender for an evergreen tree — the elegant dwarf magnolia. Little Gem is the best known variety but other good forms include Teddy Bear and Kay Parris, all with glossy green leaves and lemon-scented, big white blooms in summer. While it drops a few leaves, it is slow-growing and has a very formal shape that did not suit the location.


The runner-up for a deciduous tree was the Chanticleer ornamental pear, which has a trilogy of attractions with glossy green foliage, white flowers in spring and fabulous autumn colour.


However, their final choice was Gleditsia Sunburst, a fast-growing heat and drought-tolerant tree to about 8m tall and 6m wide. Its yellow, dainty, fern-like foliage turns to a yellow-green in summer and its horizontal branching habit creates gentle, dappled light.


Five mature Sunburst trees, grown in 100-litre containers, will be planted. For contrast a red-leafed G. Ruby Lace, which grows to about 6m tall and about 5m wide, with burgundy foliage changing to reddish green, will be added to an adjoining vacant area of land.


Deryn Thorpe visits homes for garden consultancies.


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