Whether your garden is large or small, a leafy canopy over your entertaining area, giving some respite from the summer heat and sun, is a definite asset. A good shade tree is an ongoing investment, so here are a few things you need to consider before choosing your tree.
Large or small?
Always check the potential height and spread of a tree before making a decision. Is your tree going to impact the neighbours? Will it interfere with power lines, foundations or drains? If you’re buying for a small garden, look for compact or dwarf varieties rather than something that is going to grow to 20 metres. Smaller trees include frangipani, crepe myrtle, dwarf flowering eucalypts and small evergreen magnolias (such as ‘Little Gem’). If you have space, consider a Cape Chestnut, with its glorious pink flowers – a tree that is evergreen in warm climates, but deciduous in the cold.
Deciduous or evergreen?
Do you want shade all year round, or would you prefer to allow the sun to penetrate during the winter months? If you want winter sun, look for a tree that will lose its leaves in autumn, such as Jacaranda, Ash, Birch, Maple and Robinia. You could also consider a deciduous spring-flowering tree, such as a magnolia or the ornamental fruit trees. Evergreens include hybrid flowering eucalypts, Lillypillies, Tulipwood, Pittosporum varieties and olives.
Aspect and conditions
Choose a tree that is suitable for your climatic conditions. Some of the tropical/sub-tropical shade trees, such as Poinciana, will not flourish in the cold, and many autumn foliage trees will not put on their best display without a bit of frost. The best place to plant your chosen tree is on the northern or western side of your property, where it will provide the greatest protection from the sun. Most shade trees – not unnaturally – prefer full sunlight for best growth. They also like good well-drained soil and adequate water, especially in their first year of life. If you’re planting for tough, hot conditions, a flowering eucalypt is a good bet.