Are you planning to downsize your garden? If you can’t bear the thought of leaving your favourite big trees behind, there is a simple solution. You can swap them for smaller, more compact types that will provide similar colour, shape and beauty, and will fit neatly in your new scaled-down backyard. So give them a go!
These tall natives tend to tower over and invade a little backyard, but you can choose small-scale eucalypt cultivars that are the perfect size for a limited landscape.
Hybrid gum trees Eucalyptus ‘Summer Beauty’ and Eucalyptus ‘Summer Red’ are ideal for gardens with restricted space. They will both grow up to 5m but can be pruned and kept to shrub size, if you like. ‘Summer Beauty’ has soft pink flowers with a hint of apricot and ‘Summer Red’ has mid-pink to brilliant red flowers.
Eucalyptus ‘Little Spotty’ grows up to 8m high with a spread of 6m, and has creamy white flowers through late winter and into early summer. Another great option is Eucalyptus ‘Euky Dwarf’, a lovely specimen tree. It grows up to 6.5m high and forms a dense spreading canopy up to 4m. Masses of pink or cream flowers appear in late autumn. Both varieties are distributed through Fleming’s Nurseries (flemings.com.au).
Pines and conifers
The perfect conical symmetry offered by pines such as the Norfolk Island pine can be incredibly appealing. However, while handsome, these trees can reach over 20m tall and will quickly dwarf a small space.
Grow a piece of native history in your backyard with the Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis).With a unique cone-shaped silhouette, it has an intriguing prehistoric background – it’s one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants. And, obligingly, it’s happy to stay neat and compact if planted in a large container (at least 30-40cm diameter).
The dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana ‘Conica’) has very dense, bright-green foliage that naturally grows in a conical shape. It grows up to 1m and can reach 3m with great age.
With gorgeous plume-like foliage, palms evoke a sense of the tropics and look striking in the garden. They can, however, grow very tall and certain species, such as cocos (Syagrus romanzoffiana), self-sow and become a weed.
Your garden will look glorious all year round with the gold-tinged trunk, stems and leaves of the golden cane palm (Dypsis lutescens). It grows to a height of 6-12m and makes an attractive privacy screen. For a more compact size, grow it in a pot.
The decorative lady palm (Rhapis excelsa), with dense deep-green and fan-like foliage, thrives in semi-shade and will grow up to 3-4m high. This palm also makes a great indoor plant.
A lovely display of falling autumn leaves is put on each year by deciduous trees, marking the arrival of the cooler months. But varieties such as liquidambar can reach dizzying heights, so are not suited to small gardens.
You’ll fall in love with the delicate foliage and fiery red and orange tones of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum). These small- to mediumsized trees are a year-round stand-out feature. There are many cultivars available, too.
The narrow column-like form of Pyrus ‘Capital’ makes it an excellent choice where space is at a premium. Growing to only 3m wide, it’s an ideal specimen tree, or it can be planted as a privacy screen. Its lustrous dark-green leaves change to reddish-purple in late autumn.