Landscapers use nurseries in a different way. They stroll through looking for inspiration for their next project or a plant that’s just that little different to use for a hedge that a customer wants, or a feature tree to anchor the garden. Landscapers also want value for money and good quality stock to help maintain their profit margin. Over time, they develop a trusting working relationship with the staff and management and get free expert advice from time to time to assist in their purchases. The best nurseries deliver and feature an online CRN system, which allows online management of purchases and accounts. A good working relationship with a nursery is critical to any landscaper’s business.
Trees are the skeleton on which the whole garden hangs. Trees determine the degree of shade and therefore what other plants can be grown. Trees affect the views, the “borrowed landscape”, the light inside the house and its energy efficiency. They may affect the integrity of the house foundations and plumbing if the root system is aggressive. They may drop litter and stir up allergies.
Deciduous trees can be extraordinarily beautiful because they offer a range of pleasures in different seasons.
Evergreen trees may play a screening role, be good for kids to climb, attract birds and other wildlife, be fire retardant and provide shelter from prevailing winds.
It is impossible to provide a best choice tree list for all climates around Australia. Instead, you might like to consider the following factors when deciding on which trees to incorporate in your garden design for your clients.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a nursery as: “An area where plants are grown for transplanting, for use as stocks for budding and grafting, or for sale.” These days nurseries have become a destination in which to read and relax, enjoy the company of friends over a meal or coffee whilst children play in purpose-built playgrounds; others stroll through designer gardens to the sounds of cascading waterfalls and purchase the latest varieties of plants on the market.
Most importantly choose a tree that suits its location – appropriate aspect, light, climate, humidity, soil type, pH and drainage.
Try to choose a tree that offers more than just one desirable feature. Consider leaf colour in the different seasons and leaf shape in proportion to the tree’s surrounds. Smaller leaf size makes less of a visual impact in a big open space whereas big, leafed trees tend to dominate small spaces.
Growing habit is an important consideration. The colour, size and time of appearance of the flowers should be taken into account. Does the tree offer edible or ornamental fruit? Will any seed pods become a nuisance?
The colour and texture of bark is an important consideration with trees because the canopy is generally above us whilst the trunk is in our line of sight. For instance, thedeciduous Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) has a distinctive pattern to its smooth trunk and is often used to sit under. The aroma of leaves and/or flowers and the sound of the wind in the leaves can recall all sorts of images.
If your client needs summer shade but winter sun, then a deciduous tree is the best choice. In southern Australia, planting deciduous trees on the northern and eastern sides of your site makes the house warmer and lighter in winter and cooler in the summer. Plant evergreen trees on the western side (where the sun sets) and wherever you need a permanent screen.
The degree of shade will determine the type of plants that will grow underneath the canopy. Lawn for instance, will not grow in deep shade but a mulched area with shade-loving plants such as bromeliads, cliveas, camellias, ferns and rainforest plants should do well.
If the main purpose of the tree is as a screen then deciduous trees are not very suitable. A lightly foliaged evergreen may be a better choice. Confusing the view is often as effective as completely blocking it. Consider small Eucalypts, Wattles, Banksias and Pittosporums.
A lightly foliaged tree also works better as a wind filter than a densely foliaged one, which may cause severe wind turbulence. Trees with a light canopy include Jacaranda, Silver Birch, Virgilia, Crepe Myrtle and Eucalypts.
There are some trees that seem to affect a large number of people adversely. These include Rhus, Olive and Plane trees and also the Norfolk Island Hibiscus (Lagunaria patersonia).
Trees are living things and will always drop leaves, twigs, flowers, etc. Sometimes the litter is part of the tree’s charm – for example the carpet of purple under the flowering Jacaranda nearing Christmas time, the colourful bright reds and orange autumn leaves of the Japanese maple and the scented leaves and bark below Eucalypts.
Consider Tibouchina “Alstonville” for stunning purple flowers covering the tree in autumn when very little else is flowering anywhere.
Eucalypts are the most important trees for attracting our native birds to a garden. Honeyeaters and native mammals are attracted by both native and exotic flowering trees, parrots and cockatoos will enjoy nuts, seed pods (such as those of Banksia integrifolia) and cones. Corymbia “Summer Red” is but one of a few dwarf, grafted, Eucalyptus trees, which are ideal for a small block and have an outstanding flower display in red, pink, orange and magenta in summer and spot flower the rest of the year.
Eucalypts and many conifers are highly inflammable because of the volatile oils they contain. Trees that do not burn readily include Angophora costata and the Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum).
Remember to deliver trees to the jobsite only when you are ready to plant. I have seen numerous landscape sites where plants have been stolen, suffered and/or died because they needed to be “put aside for a few days”. This mistake will also eat away at your bottom-line profit.