One way to create a statement in the garden is with a feature tree. But what makes an ideal one? There isn’t a single defining aspect, but rather a combination of factors, including the purpose, size, appearance and position. Here’s what to consider when looking for a feature tree.
Look at your space and consider the intent of the tree – is it to provide a strong, structural backbone for your landscape, give height to a small space, provide summer shade, a focal point or visual impact from the home? Answering these questions will help guide and narrow your search. Be aware that sometimes a single tree may not be the solution for your landscape, and you may need to include a group of them, which of course can be equally striking.
Assess your area and see what room the tree has to grow and spread. Ensure the space is adequate, otherwise you will be forever pruning to keep the tree contained or, conversely, the whole effect may be lost because the tree is out of proportion with its surrounds. Not all trees have a spreading habit; some are tall and narrow, like Pyrus ‘Capital’ or an upright silver birch (Betula ‘Fastigata’) so even if you don’t have the width, it’s possible to still have height.
Most trees will need a spot in full sun, that is, with at least 6 hours of sun a day. The soil should be well-draining and enriched with organic matter such as compost before planting. If planting close to the home, take note of trees with invasive roots and also, what effect the canopy could have on the interiors. Do you want a permanent green cover or perhaps a deciduous tree, that provides shade in summer but lets in light and warmth during winter?
If planting a tree as a lone specimen, consider underplanting with soft, leafy foliage plants to help integrate it into the landscape. A tree planted on its own, especially without any context like a leading path or planted garden bed, risks sticking out instead of standing out.
Now, the fun part – choosing the tree. Go for a walk around your neighbourhood and see if any catch your eye. It may be because of the gorgeous flowers, stunning seasonal foliage, or the strong, architectural shape. This will give you an idea what qualities you gravitate towards and give you a good starting point to choosing your tree.
There are many varieties that possess all these qualities, including jacarandas, ornamental pears, crepe myrtles, flowering eucalypts (Corymbia ficifolia) or deciduous magnolias. But if foliage and a strong presence is your preference, consider dragon tree (Dracaena draco), Japanese maple or Chinese elm.
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