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By Jenny Indian, Member of NERSA, Landcare and Indigo Shire Environment Advisory Committee

“Of all plants they are the most prominent and most permanent, the ones that set the scene and dictate the atmosphere” – I wish I could say that was me but these are the words of Hugh Johnson who has written extensively on trees (and interestingly also wine).  And he is, of course, so right.

Trees dominate visually.  They can provide vertical uplift, leading your eye up, or give horizontal structure to a space.  Trees have the potential to create many different types of social spaces – a single, low-sprawling tree defines an outdoor room, two trees planted as a pair form a gateway, several trees clustered together can produce a grove and four or more trees planted carefully and equally spaced can produce a square and enclose those within it.  As the gardener you can determine what goes where and therefore just what type of space you want.

Often trees are planted with little regard for the spaces they will go on to create.  Sadly there are many examples of hideously chopped and pruned trees which have been planted in a tight space, or with little thought to their eventual shape and size.

Fruit trees are making something of a comeback and many are worthy of a spot in the garden.  Many fruit trees provide a wonderful spring display of blossom, some – citrus for example – give fantastic scent when in flower, many colour up beautifully in autumn and all provide a delicious and practical harvest.  

But what tree and where…?  Always consider the environment the tree would grow in naturally and then look at where you are putting it.  So, if it grows naturally on a moist mountain side it most likely won’t thrive on the western side of the garden in shallow soil.  Think too about underground services and where are they in relation to the tree; overhead structures and power lines; neighbours fences and views; where the shade will fall, how much and what time of the day.  Hopefully you can then avoid having to lop or fell a perfectly healthy tree simply because it’s in the wrong place.

But don’t be afraid of trees either.  They are precious, living things which change over time.  Larger spaces call for larger trees so don’t always stick to the “safer” smaller trees. Think of the future and the legacy you are leaving – the shade, the habitat and the visual impact of just one fine tree.