Trees are the backbone of many a well designed garden and the broader landscape. Some people feel that trees are the backbone of many civilizations. After all, they provide us with shade and shelter from sun, winds and storms.
Plus building materials; foods and medicines; inspiration and beauty; and literally the very oxygen we breathe! Every day of the year there is some variety of tree that will flower, fruit or in some way enhance the garden and our World.
With Spring showers transforming into Summer monsoon downpours this is an excellent time to complete the planting of container grown shrubs and trees before the approaching Summer dry conditions and scorching heat makes planting more difficult.
Here are just a few trees that really come into their own in the Summertime:
Also known as the Laurel Magnolia is one of the most handsome and grand of the broadleafed evergreen trees. A mature tree can reach 30m/100ft with age in it’s native southern USA homeland but in the home garden is more like 7m x 5m/23.4 x 16.7ft.
There are many dwarf species like ‘Elfin’ and ‘Little Gem’ which stay quite compact. Leaves are deepest glossy green with a russet felt on their backs. Flowers are massive up to 25-30cm/10-12in across. These almost resemble giant Tulip buds that open into waterlily white cups with a powerful fragrance quite reminiscent of Citrus blossom.
They start flowering as Summer approaches and continue well into Autumn. Most unusual crimson-scarlet oval seed pods adorn the trees well into winter and often cling into the following Spring. These are very ancient and hardy trees quite suitable for most average soils and conditions from cool temperate zones up into the tropics. They are one of the best for the larger garden, landscape, park and windbreak plus they are easily grown in containers, as espaliers, lawn, patio or street trees.
The Smoke Bush, is one of the most decorative, popular and unusual small trees for Summer flowering. This is often a large shrub as much as an attractive smaller tree often about 3m x 3m/10ft x10ft but sometimes larger and often smaller and spreading. Cotinus features large plumy blooms resembling cotton candy in pink/purple/red. These fluffy flowers literally smothering the tree most of the Summer giving it a distinctive smoky appearance.
This is a deciduous tree with paddle-shaped leaves that in Autumn and Early Winter turn the most vivid shades of red/crimson, purple, orange, and yellow. Sometimes all these colours appear through delicate patterns and veining in the same leaf! They thrive in poorer, freely draining soils; will tolerate considerable drought and dry hot positions; seeming to thrive throughout quite cold regions all the way up to the tropics. There are burgundy, green & purple leafed forms and rarely variegated cultivars.
The Silk Tree or Mimosa, is a summertime classic in temperate climates all the way to the tropics. They make an excellent screening or shade tree. Mimosas are very fast growing, which makes them excellent for open new sections in need of quick cover and shade. These are very graceful trees that spread out quite quickly to 5m x 4m/ 16.7 x 13.4ft but can occasionally attain 1O-15m/33.4-50ft wide and roughly10m/33.4ft tall.
They create a symmetrical dome or umbrella of feathery, fern-like large leaves topped in Summer with clusters of soft, silky pink or reddish powder-puffs with a delightful fruity fragrance that smells like Apricots and Peaches. In full flower the entire tree is a canopy of pastel colour and soft fragrance. They make a wonderful specimen planting in the lawn or larger landscape and quickly knit together to form an impressive high archway of avenues, drives and pathways.
Mimosas are deciduous so lose their leaves quickly in Autumn to Early Winter. Leaves often turn a soft yellow shade before they drop and seem to disintegrate into dust leaving little to rake. While Mimosa creates a lovely lacy canopy of cooling shade in Summer, once their foliage dies away there remain very few branches to screen out the Winter sun. This makes them ideal for a feature tree under-planted with Winter and Spring flowering bulbs and seasonal flowers or for Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Pieris Japonica (Lily-of-the-Valley shrub) and Rhododendron plants.
Mimosa thrives to its very best in a sunny and warm spot sheltered from strong winds. They thrive in heat and will tolerate some drought but detest wet feet!
The same applies to Jacaranda which very closely resembles the Mimosa in leaf form and growth habit. But Jacaranda often grows taller than Mimosa. 7m x-5m/23.4 x 16.7ft is common but well furbished mature trees can be two or three times this size This is a (sub) tropical Brazilian native which needs a sunny, warm position sheltered from strong winds and severe frosts. Jacaranda is famous for its beautiful Summer flowering clusters of blue/lavender/mauve/purple tubular blooms that flair out at their tip.
These appear just before and with the new emerging foliage. For many weeks during Early Summer the entire tree can be completely smothered in blue-lavender-purple flowers that soon carpet the ground for many weeks. For best results, Jacaranda not only needs a very warm, sheltered position but also almost perfect drainage! Failure to flower in borderline positions is often due to cold, wet weather at flowering time. Jacaranda is an ideal subject for climates with subtropical dry and sunny Winter and Spring weather.
They also thrive in quite arid zones as well as truly tropical environments wherever they can have a sustained period of dry weather just prior to flowering. In tropical environments, the Jacaranda’s flowering is more contingent on dry and wet spells rather than other seasonal variations.
The Orchid Tree is something really exotic for a very sheltered, sunny and warm (sub) tropical corner. While fairly common, but highly treasured, in the (sub) tropics, they are rare in cooler climates but thrive in warm, sheltered, free--draining soils. They are semi-evergreen and rather frost-tender. Leaves are quite unusual and resemble an animal hoof print. They are smooth and medium to olive green with two lobes of equal size on either side of a central mid-rib.
The most exotic flowers usually appear after the warm weather foliage has partially dropped in Late Winter to Spring and can continue right through the Summer. Dependent upon species and variety these flowers can be brick to brilliant red orange. These are often semi- trailing or vining species that are Summer flowering By far the finest species are Hong Kong Orchid Trees and their slightly smaller flowering relative.
These beautiful trees feature pink, purple or white flowers that closely resemble large, fragrant Cattleya Orchids! They make a stunning spectacle when flowering in the garden or as an avenue planting. These are such small trees 3 x 3m/10 x 10ft that they can often be successfully grown in large tubs or landscape planters and are a favourite for conservatories.
Even in borderline regions, they often perform well when planted on the inner, sunny and warmest corner wall of an L shaped build, or sunny and warmest wall in a courtyard. In milder climates, they make a most valuable street tree and landscape specimen for the subtropical garden.
Whatever one chooses now is an excellent time to plant these trees from established containers. Dig a broad and deep hole and enrich the soil with mature compost and/or very well aged manure which should be well dug-in. Avoid adding much if any fertiliser to the planting hole at planting time. This can be scattered around the drip line of the tree once it is planted.
Remove the tree from its container and position it so that it rests in the hole at about the same level as the surrounding land. Then back fill enriched soil back into the hole only part way. If the weather is at all dry, water copiously at this stage, nearly filling the planting hole up to the halfway line.
This will settle the soil around the tree roots and eliminate any air holes around the roots. Let this water sink in and then fill the hole to the top with enriched soil. Add just a skim of soil over the top of the root ball. Then add a protective organic layer of mulch.
Stake all trees at planting time. Tie them both top and bottom to keep them from swaying or whipping about in strong winds. Over the next few weeks regularly water the tree rather deeply and generously if rains fail to provide at least 1in/2.5cm of rain per week. Once the tree appears to have become established and new growth is proceeding, watering can become less frequent.
But watch carefully if summery drought deepens as this will be when the young tree most desperately will need extra watering. Once Autumn cooler and damper days arrive, the tree will probably be well enough established that it will need little extra attention or care other than routine maintenance and pruning.
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