Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Try growing: local deciduous trees

More and more Australians are tuning into the benefits of using gardens to regulate the temperature of our houses. A key strategy for doing this is to plant deciduous trees to the north of a property, so that they provide shade in summer but let in the warming sunlight in wintertime. 

Unfortunately, one of the truisms of Australian garden design is that if you want to include deciduous trees in your garden, you need to turn to non-native species. And of course there are many beautiful exotic deciduous trees such as oak, pistachio and maple that are suitable for many suburban gardens. 

However, there are a few deciduous Australian trees that can do the same job, as well as providing good habitat for local birds and other species. One such tree local to the Illawarra (and other regions in Eastern Australia too) is the Koda (Ehretia acuminata) tree. The Koda looks a little like an apricot tree, as it often has multiple twisted trunks and quite delicate looking leaves. It also has masses of tasty orange fruits, though they're quite a lot smaller than the commercial apricot... 

Here's a photo of a young Koda tree courtesy of Russell Cumming on Flickr: 
Ehretia acuminata in flower
And a nice closeup of the leaves and fruit courtesy of Noosa's Native Plants:

Koda is not a tree that many nurseries stock, but you may find it in council nurseries, and commercial nurseries may be able to source one for you if you ask them. It will grow to around 15-18 metres in a suburban garden.

Other deciduous species that are local to the Illawarra include the dainty white cedar (Melia azederach), and the iconic red cedar (Toona ciliata, a truly massive tree which can reach 60 metres). Illawarra flame trees (Brachychiton acerifolius) are deciduous but not always in winter, so if you are after a tree that will reliably let in the winter sun, this may not be the one for you. (They are also notoriously fickle about whether and when they will flower.)

Here's a shot of the next generation of Kodas, just transplanted into forestry tubes to grow up for planting out in spring:

Happy gardening!

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