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Planning Your Treescape Part 1: Planning and Space Considerations

When in the planning stages for any garden, it is easy to be over zealous and choose too many plants or species for a given area. It’s a little like having big eyes in a sweet shop. That’s understandable, but it often leads to crowded spaces with plants competing for available resources rather than creating a cohesive landscape. This is especially true when planting trees, as saplings are hard to imagine in their full potential; it’s an evolution which occurs throughout their long lifespan.
 |  Andrew Noakes  | 

Questions must be asked when planting all trees, but especially larger species:

• Will it interfere with your or a neighbour’s view?

• Will it grow into a power line or overhang your driveway or fence when fully grown?

• Will the tree cause a subsidence issue for your property in the long term?

• Will this planting cause structural hazards when fully grown?

• Are you going to encourage wildlife or will you be fostering pests and disease? (ie unpruned   Phoenix Palms are happy homes for possums and rats).

• How accessible is your tree for ongoing maintenance?

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times… “I didn’t realise the tree would get that big.” I understand that when ambitiously trying to establish a treescape we think more is better, but that is not always the case. We need to think practically about meeting the needs of the trees in the space available and that includes consideration of valuable resources necessary for vitality; both in rural and urban environments.

Resource considerations:

• Sunlight (available energy): Access to or lack of sunlight has direct influence on the energy available to a tree. Trees utilise chlorophyll to make component molecules available for sugar production to feed the plant which directly enables tree growth. This takes solar energy.

• Hydration (access to water): Water is needed throughout the tree for the root system, vascular system and process of photosynthesis.

• Soil Structure (nutrient availability): Soil composition and structure has direct influence on the availability of water and nutrients to a tree through its root structure. Soil compaction due to external forces (ie human, construction, vehicles, livestock, etc) diminishes the water and nutrients available from the soil; being mindful of the space around a tree will help the tree thrive in the long term. Water logged soil can also deprive roots of oxygen, though some thrive in this environment like Salix.

• Temperature: Each tree species has an optimum temperature range to encourage growth and soils that fall outside this range will not provide the right conditions for growth. For example, a late spring frost can have dramatic ill effects on fruiting trees, just as a dry/hot drought will negatively affect the growth of deciduous trees.

Species can be selected for their limit in growth to suit the available resources and landscape, but ongoing maintenance costs must then be considered at the outset.

Trees planted in an orchard (ie fruit and nuts) require adequate spacing and regular pruning to keep them producing.

Trees are an investment, both financially and energetically, so it’s worthwhile to do your homework first and ensure the right tree is chosen for the right space. A tree is a gift for generations to come.

Next Month… Planning Your Treescape – Part 2: Species Selection and Placement.

Andrew Noakes, of NZ Arb Consultancy, is a local Qualified Arborist and TRAQ Certified Assessor with over 30 years experience caring for trees in a variety of situations. 0204 163 5486