National Tree Day has just passed, and so it might be time to consider some alternatives for the inclusion of smaller trees in the backyard.
Koelreuteria paniculata, also known as Chinese rain tree or golden rain tree, is a slow-growing tree that will give multi-season interest to local gardens and streets. Eventually, it will grow to between 7-10 metres, with interesting foliage and chains of yellow flowers in the summer.
The autumn foliage colour is an added bonus; in most places it will be bronze-to-gold, holding on the tree until mid-May.
The bark is finely-fissured, and becomes very interesting on mature trees.
Chinese tallow wood tree, sapium sebiferum, is one of the best trees for autumn colours in warmer areas. At maturity it reaches between 8-10 metres tall. The autumn foliage will vary between yellow, orange and ruby-red. It is a relatively drought-tolerant tree, tough and reliable. The tallow wood tree had a distinct main trunk and a dome-shaped crown.
There is a huge range of small growing Australian native trees, including this area's indigenous plants.
With careful selection, the home gardener should be able to grow at least one in their garden.
Tree waratah (Alloxylon flammeum): not all shade trees have a spreading canopy. With its upright habit, this evergreen is one example. With its dense foliage and fabulous summer colour, it's a wonderful tree to provide a shady spot. It is a member of the family Proteaceae, which includes grevilleas, banksias and waratahs. The tree is fairly slow growing and may not flower for seven or eight years, especially if propagated from seed. However, the spectacular waratah-like red flowers are worth the wait.
Hymenosporum flavum (native frangipani): a small, slender, fast-growing tree with glossy dark green lanceolate leaves, that reaches 8-10 metres. From mid spring to early summer the canopy is covered in clusters of highly fragrant cream flowers turning yellow as they age. They attract honeyeaters and insectivorous birds, as well as butterflies. Although tolerant of poor dry soil and full sun, it prefers a moist, fertile soil with some shade.
Melaleuca linariifolia (snow in summer): this is a fast-growing, bushy tree with dull green lanceolate leaves, and reaches about 8-10 metres. From mid-spring until late summer it produces a profusion of white, scented 'bottlebrush' flower spikes. Often found on heavy wet soils, it tolerates sandy and saline soils, atmospheric pollution and phytophthora cinnamomi, a soil-borne disease that causes root rot. Snow in summer also makes an effective specimen, screen or street tree. According to the Koala Preservation Society of NSW, it is one of the few non-eucalypts with foliage that koalas sometimes feed on.
Lemon-scented myrtle, backhousia citriodora: is a medium-sized shrub or tree, to 8 metres tall with a low-branching habit. The leaves are a fresh green colour and strongly lemon-scented. The young foliage is reddish and the young shoots and undersides of the leaves are often hairy.
Acacia melanoxylon (blackwood): is a long-lived wattle that would be suitable as a small shade tree. In cultivation, most blackwoods will grow 12-15 metres in height. Trees have elegant dark grey-green foliage. The flowers appear in late winter, and are multi-branched inflorescences of pale yellow balls. The fragrance is sweet.
Plunkett mallee, Eucalyptus curtisii, is a fast-growing small tree. It has many smooth-barked trunks. In spring many white flowers that are full of nectar are produced. Plunkett mallee reaches about 7 metres in height. Ideal growing conditions include well-drained, sandy soils in full sun.
While rose plants are bare of leaves, it is an ideal time in which to check for white scale that can form on stems. This condition can particularly occur if the plants do not have sufficient air flow around them or if they have had a heavy cover of leaves. The flakes of white scale can be found attached to the trunks and branches.
Immediately following pruning, any dead leaves and other debris should be removed from around the base of the plant, as well as from the junction of the main trunk and side branches. It is important to take steps to control rose scale before new shoots appear, as the new shots are very tender and can be susceptible to damage.
Lime sulphur is ideal to use as it has a low level of toxicity as well as being very effective in the control of white scale. It should be applied at a rate recommended on the container.
More stubborn areas of scale may require brushing with an old scrubbing brush.
TUNED TO PRUNE
Pruning fruit trees at this time of the year achieves several things, including: improving the size, colour and quality of the fruit; promoting heavy and regular bearing; maintaining a healthy tree; enabling care of the tree to be carried out conveniently and efficiently.
Trees that are not pruned regularly will become too tall and thick with growth for harvesting to be properly achieved.
Fruit on trees is not produced directly on the limbs but, instead on spurs and laterals. Laterals are long supple growths that appear annually and have leaf and flower buds. Spurs are short stubby growths that are produced directly from the branches, with multiple flower buds. They may remain productive for several years.