How to choose the right tree for your garden
TREES provide a lifetime of beauty, clean air, shade, and shelter, AND add character and value to any property (provided they’re planted in the right place).
If you’re shopping for trees for a new garden or to enhance your existing one, you may be overwhelmed by all the species of trees available at Cape Garden.
And regularly, when it comes to trees, a decision in haste can lead to a lifetime of regret! Many trees grow more beautiful generation after generation; others have the potential to create decades of trouble - dropping messy fruit or creating all sorts of problems with its invasive, spreading roots!
These days more and more homeowners are living on smaller properties. Many gardens have downsized.
BUT LUCKILY THERE’S GOOD NEWS! Trees can still be a part of the landscape design – no matter how small! The key is choosing the right tree for your garden.
So when deciding on the perfect tree for your garden, take your time and select a tree that offers the best combination of qualities you will enjoy.
THINGS TO CONSIDER before choosing the perfect tree for your garden:
Trees are either DECIDUOUS or EVERGREEN: Deciduous trees lose their leaves in autumn and are bare all winter, though the leaves often give a final show of beautiful colour before it drops. Evergreen trees retain their foliage year-round, BUT naturally do shed some leaves right through the year.
A tree's GROWTH RATE also may have a bearing on your choice. (If it's important to establish shade or have flowers relatively quickly, choose a fast-growing tree).
Be sure to SCALE trees to their surroundings. Use small- or medium-size species for smaller houses and gardens. In any garden, put smaller trees near the house and taller ones farther out in the garden or near its edge.
We have a wonderful heritage of INDIGENOUS trees that’s well suited to our specific climate, but there’s naturally room for specific exotic species that will add value to any garden. Every tree offers something unique!
Begin your selection process by ASKING YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
Think about the area for which you require the trees:
1. Is SPACE a prohibiting factor? (Are there any buildings, paving, swimming pool in close proximity?) If this is the case, be sure to choose a tree that doesn’t have an aggressive, spreading root system.
2. Is your garden EXPOSED, subject to EXTREME WEATHER conditions or close to the COAST? (If so, you will have to look at trees suitable for these type of conditions).
3. What TYPE OF SOIL do you have in your garden (clay, loam or sand): predominately wet or dry?
4. How TALL do you want the tree to grow? (A little research goes a long way, and knowing how high a tree will grow, will help you avoid problems in the future. Think about the structures that your tree may encounter as it grows - such as power lines, roofs, other trees and any other immovable structures.
5. How WIDE do you want the tree to grow? (If you want to use a tree to create shade, you’ll be looking for one that spreads out and produces a wide canopy. Remember that the shade provided by a tree’s canopy may also affect what you can plant underneath it).
Why do I want a tree? (What should the FUNCTION of the tree be?)
For shade? Privacy? Something to look pretty? Or to block the view of the neighbour's less-than-lovely backyard?
1. Do the tree(s) need to be EVERGREEN / DECIDUOUS? (Remember that deciduous trees let some much needed winter sun through)!
2.Are ORNAMENTAL qualities required? (flowers, fruit or colourful leaves?)
3.Do I require a SPECIMEN tree? (Specimen trees are planted by themselves, mainly for ornamental purposes. They are often used in lawn settings, planted at entrances, or to provide shade for seating areas. Since they’re intended as focal points, you shouldn’t have too many of them)
4. Is SCREENING or a WINDBREAK needed? (Windbreak trees are planted to provide a buffer against prevailing winds and storms. The best windbreak and screening trees are dense evergreens which provide year round protection.)
5.Do you want to attract WILDLIFE to your garden? (Wildlife not only makes the garden feel alive but also help keep it beautiful).
6.Do you want a tree that produces EDIBLE FRUIT? (Fruit trees make excellent specimen trees while offering edible fruits for your table. Nothing beats being able to pick fruit from a tree in your own garden, but keep in mind that fruit trees can get messy - find it a spot away from paved areas or sidewalks and remove over-ripe fruit before it falls to the ground and rots. Fruit trees usually need more pruning, pest control, and attention than other types of trees, but they will reward you with lovely springtime blossoms and seasonal fruits to enjoy.)
7.Do you require the tree to produce a wide canopy for SHADE? (Who doesn’t love the shade of a tree on a hot summer’s day? If planted in the right spot, these trees can also shade your home and significantly lower your cooling bills.)
8.Do I require a STREET TREE? (Trees planted along the street must be tough to withstand the stresses of traffic, pavement, heat, and poor soil. They also may need to be short enough to fit under power lines and compact enough to grow in a narrow strip of earth. They shouldn’t drop large fruits or branches that could interfere with car or foot traffic.)
Good options for trees chosen to fit in certain spaces or for specific attributes:
(But make sure it ticks all your boxes!)
*For screening / windbreak:
Dodonaea viscosa (and D. viscosa ‘Purpurea’) (Sandolive / Sandolyf)
Vachellia (Acacia) sieberiana var.‘woodii’(Paperbark thorn / Papierbasdoring)
Celtis africana (or sinensis)( White stinkwood / Witstinkhout)
Dovyalis caffra (Kei-apple / Kei-appel)
*Close to a pool / house:
Portulacaria afra (Porkbush / Spekboom)
*To attract birds:
Halleria lucida (Tree fuchsia)
*Creating a focal point (specimen tree):
Vachellia (Acacia) xanthophloea (Fever tree / Koorsboom)
*For coastal / windy gardens:
Sideroxylon inerme (Milkwood / Melkhout)
*For an autumn display:
Liquidambar styraciflua (American Sweetgum)
Still not 100% sure?
At Cape Garden we will help you to choose a tree that is suitable for your garden and meets your expectations - to be enjoyed by generations to come!