Monday, July 22, 2024
Delonix regia - a flowering shade tree for the subtropics. (Image: Patrick Regnault)

Tree choices for a successful design

By Patrick Regnault

Before compiling this article, I asked colleagues in different parts of Australia to provide me with three trees they find perform well; one for shade, one for ornamental purposes and one fruiting, and to give me the reasons for their choices. Nearly always, the first response was: “to nominate three trees is a bit like nominating three people you like”. All of them gave me more than the required number of trees.

Nicholas Rivett (FAIH) Arborist and nurseryman, South Eastern Victoria:

Fruit Tree: Feijoa sellowiana has edible flowers and fruit, can be used as espalier, or shaped as a tree. A pest- and disease-free plant which grows in a wide range of soil types, and has low water requirements.

Shade Tree: The fast-growing and high-crowned Platanus acerifolius, can be trained and pruned as an umbrella over an area. For moderate growth rate and less crown management, Pyrus nivalis. Slower-growing and with some formative pruning and training, use Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii’.It may require simple Elm Leaf Beetle management.

Ornamental tree: A copse of 3-5 Hymenosporum flavum, planted about 1m apart, will form a small, grouped crown, and has bright glossy green leaves with masses of yellow, highly fragrant ‘Frangipani’ flowers in December and January. The Lagerstroemia cultivars, ‘Tonto’ (red), ‘Sioux’ (pink) or ‘Natchez (white), provide great flower displays and also have  attractive cinnamon-coloured, peeling bark throughout winter.

A striking contrast of light-coloured leaves and the dark trunk and branches of Ulmus minor ‘Variegata’ (Image: Sue McClymont)
A striking contrast of light-coloured leaves and the dark trunk and branches of Ulmus minor ‘Variegata’ (Image: Sue McClymont)

Sue McClymont Horticulturist, Landscape Designer, Orange NSW:

Fruit Tree: Prunus avium (cherry tree) has lush white nectar filled blossoms. It has a short window to enjoy the bounty, if not challenged by frost or rain, or birds that might get there first. The fruit kicks off the festive season.

Shade tree: PyrusSouthworth Dancer’ is not what you would necessarily call a shade tree but it is a quiet achiever. It crosses the ‘style’ divide.

Ornamental Tree: Acer rubrum October Glory’ framed my window beautifully with its breathtaking autumn foliage; Magnolia ‘Star Wars’ always provides me with two flowerings one in spring and another in summer; Lagerstroemia Tuscarora’- that is definitely a four-season tree. Pale colours can wash out on hot dry days; and then there is the 38-year old Ulmus minor ‘Variegata’ with its stunningly white foliage.

Kris Pierce (MAIH) Registered Horticulturist/Landscaper, Coffs Harbour NSW:

Fruit Tree: Citrus limon ‘Eureka fruits prolifically through the year and is so versatile, as well as being a tradeable commodity.

Shade Tree: Backhousia citrodora has deliciously fragrant leaves when crushed.

Ornamental Tree: Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ has dark glossy leaves with bronze undersides, magnificent flowers, and is hardy and resilient.

Chris Poulton (FAIH) Registered Horticulturist, Consultant, Sydney/Dural:

Fruit Tree: You can’t beat Citrus reticulata ‘Ellendale’; an old-fashioned variety with a really nice flavour.

Shade Tree: For larger properties, Platanus orientalis ‘Digitata’.

Ornamental tree: Lagerstroemia ‘Tonto’. A terrific small tree in Sydney, reasonably mildew resistant, pink/red flowers, and is adaptable to many situations. Also, Callistemon viminalis ‘MacArthur’ is a good medium sized tree and bird attractant.

Jonathan Garner (FAIH) Registered Horticulturist, Landscape Consultant, Sydney/Southern Highlands NSW:

Fruit Tree: Tahitian lime or Eureka lemon for heavy yield. Picking Eureka early reduces skin thickness. Although prone to insect attack there are good biological control agents.

Shade tree: Cupaniopsis anacardioides is bullet-proof, a moderate grower, prunes well for shape, is water efficient, has large leaves making them easy to clean, as well as being slightly possum-proof.

Ornamental Tree: Albizia julibrissin has amazing pink flowers in November. It is a very quick-growing, water-efficient, nitrogen-fixer but is very prone to borer attack. Magnolia soulangeana ‘Susan’ has lovely soft pink flowers. It requires training early and is popular with possums.

Glenice Batchelor (FAIH) Registered Horticulturist, Plant Person, Natural Resource Management, Tammin WA:

Fruit Tree: Pomegranate, if you are okay with calling it a fruit. It has tough, colourful flowers and red fruit when ripe. It is easily pruned to size and to take care of any bird damage.

Shade Tree: Eucalyptus torquata for light shade. From the WA Goldfields area; it has attractive flowers and decorative buds. Its small, hardy and reliable habit makes it ideal. Usually known for its range of pink flowers, but of course mine flowers creamy yellow, which is not that common. Another WA favourite is Agonis flexuosa with its range of colourful foliage cultivars.

Plant Eucalyptus torquata for light shade and birdlife (Image: Glenice Batchelor)
Plant Eucalyptus torquata for light shade and birdlife (Image: Glenice Batchelor)

Ornamental Tree: Eucalyptus caesia, the Silver Princess’ form is now the darling of landscapers and roofscapers for its silver grey coating, fascinating bark and tolerance of limited soil. Eucalyptus crucis, another tough versatile WA Goldfields favourite with its silver-grey foliage and amazing bark. It is often used by florists. 

Wayne Van Balen (FAIH) Registered Horticulturist, Garden Design and Management, Sydney and Nambucca NSW:

Fruit Tree: Tahitian lime takes five years to become fully established but bears well, and has a medium, tight habit. It can be managed to bear fruit in winter and summer.

Shade Tree: Acer palmatum, acanopy shape that is not too large with good autumn colour, and for slightly larger gardens, Jacaranda mimosifolia.

Grevillea ‘City Lights’ developed by Kings Park in Perth (Image: Neville Passmore)
Grevillea ‘City Lights’ developed by Kings Park in Perth (Image: Neville Passmore)

Ornamental Tree: Magnolia grandiflora ‘Teddy Bear’;contrasting shiny olive green shiny leaves and large, slightly fragrant cream flowers, along with a tight screening shape.

Neville Passmore (FAIH) Registered Horticulturist, Consultant, Writer, Perth WA:

Fruit Tree: Annona reticulata is a beautifully fragrant tree when in flower. The fruit is a real delight to give a guest for a very sweet experience.

Shade Tree: Delonix regia is very tolerant of the high temperatures of our summers, now and I hope, into the future. The intense dark green of the foliage is unique in our garden and inspires cool thoughts.

Ornamental Tree: Grevillea ‘City Lights’ is a tall, large shrub that can be shaped as a small tree. The joy comes from the vivid, vermillion toothbrush flower spikes, which are not only arresting in the landscape, but are beloved of the honey-eating birds in the garden.

Patrick Regnault FAIH RH0062

Interactive Landscapes


Main photo: Delonix regia – a flowering shade tree for the subtropics. (Image: Patrick Regnault)

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