Tips on specimen trees

by | Jan 6, 2016 | Featured Slider, Latest, News

Great trees possess the same individual character and presence as great works of art,’ explains Dean Kingham, founder and owner of Habitat Mature Tree Nursery.

Established in 1991, the company is one of the original large tree nurseries in the Western Cape. What began as a passion for trees at the tender age of 12, with a special interest in bonsais, has exploded into a 15-hectare nursery – home to around 100 000 exotic and indigenous trees, ranging from young 2-metre-high plants, to massive 40-year-old trees in 4 000-litre containers. The experience of visiting Habitat Nursery verges on the theatrical. Whether it’s the mind-boggling variety or the crane hoisting a Frangipani tree, in a 2 000-litre container, 12 metres up to land ever so gently on the back of the multi-wheeler delivery truck – here, everything is larger than life. Dean’s impressive range has been expertly edited into a curated selection right at the nursery’s entrance so as not to overwhelm. A team of expert horticulturalists, including seasoned tree specialist Ant Hilliard, is on hand to answer all questions. Habitat also offers customers a bespoke selection, delivery and planting service.

TREES TO ATTRACT WILDLIFE If your heart longs for a garden frequented by birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife, try these indigenous trees best suited to the job.

DECIDUOUS SPECIMENS (lose their leaves in winter) ■ Erythrina caffra (Coast Coral Tree) attracts birds such as bulbuls, Yellow Weavers, sunbirds and orioles. ■ Combretum erythrophyllum (River Bushwillow) attracts birds such as Southern Black Tits, which tap the fruit, and Pied Barbets, which eat the seeds. ■ Acacia species, such as Acacia xanthophloea (Fever Tree) and Acacias sieberiana (Paperbark Thorn), provide ideal nesting for many birds.

EVERGREEN SPECIMENS (in leaf year round) ■ The nectar of the Halleria lucida (Tree Fuchsia) attracts sunbirds. ■ The moisture-loving Nuxia floribunda (Forest Elder) is selfpollinating, and attracts bees and insects, drawing in a host of birds. ■ Mongooses, bushpigs, starlings, Cape parrots and louries enjoy the fruit of the Olea europaea subsp. africana (Wild Olive). ■ Citrus Swallowtail butterflies feed on the Vepris lanceolata (White Ironwood) and Crested Barbets enjoy the tree’s fruit.


FUNCTION Do you want a feature tree or one for privacy? For screening, a multi-stemmed tree (branching from the base) will give good foliage cover from the ground up. For a feature specimen, consider the shape, colour and texture of the main stem, as well as the canopy.

AVAILABLE SPACE The size and shape of the tree should relate to your space. For example, a narrowstemmed single tree will get lost on a large, open lawn.

ASPECT Take into account sun and shade movement, as well as the wind direction and shelter of the tree’s final position — don’t position a delicate tree in a wind tunnel.

POSITIONING Your tree should look good from all angles, including from inside the house. Consider the vertical line of a single, clean-stemmed tree versus the sculptural option of a multi-stemmed one.

DECIDUOUS vs EVERGREEN A deciduous tree allows for more winter light — a boon if you’re after a tree for the lawn or close to the house. An evergreen tree will provide year-round screening, and save on sweeping up fallen leaves.

Based on an article in Conde Nast’s  House and Garden magazine.


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