Searching for the right tree

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Searching for the right tree

Postby newbie2208 » Sat Dec 27, 2008 2:06 am

Hello,

Am working on a landscape plan as part of requirement to building a new house in a new suburb. The guidelines suggest that we have a medium to large tree in the backyard and two small trees in front. The trees species has to be within the list of Blacktown City Council's development control plan for the suburb. Of course the list of trees are suggested and if we were to choose something within the list, we would have a better chance of getting our landscape plan approved.

My question is, can you suggest what tree to have for the backyard and in front? Am in search of the right tree - the ones that are of course beautiful for the garden, easy to take care of, shady, does not harbor pests, and is child-friendly (e.g. does not have any sort of allergens, etc.). Is there such a tree? :)

I attach the list for your reference. Hoping for you kind guidance.

Btw, Happy Holidays, too!

Cheers,
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby Pam » Sat Dec 27, 2008 5:00 am

Well that's a fairly uninspired list, isn't it? :?

Not knowing the size of your block it's difficult to suggest what you should plant, but given that you want child friendly, skip the white cedar. We had one in NSW and for 2 months or so every year it was covered in hairy caterpillars that had a tendency to hang from the tree on long webs, so were easily walked into.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby brill » Sat Dec 27, 2008 8:22 am

What a lousy uninspiring list. I'm assuming you are on a normal size suburban block, so skip the gums. The jacaranda is a nice tree, good for shade, but you have a carpet pf purple when its in flower. Lovely to look at but not to have carted around on the bottom of little feet. I'd be thinking the Melaleuca linarifolia or Agonis (Agonis don't like humidity much so aren't regularly grown in Qld so I don't know a lot about it). However, I don't think either has a wide canopy to provide shade. Sometimes when I see these lists I wonder if its worth the money to stick to the recommended species. I know every $ helps, but is it worth having to live with plants you don't really like for years and years. How soon after planting do you get approval? Could you get the money then the plant, for no apparent reason, suddenly die? Oops, did I really say that!
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby newbie2208 » Sat Dec 27, 2008 8:30 am

Thanks Pam, wow that's helpful advice. We'll stay away from the white cedar.

Our lot size is 475 square meters. Our backyard would be 15m (wide) x 4m and we have a 3.5m easement at the front of the house.

Is there anything we should consider outside of this list. We were thinking golden elm tree for the backyard. Aside from it being deciduous, is there anything else that might be wrong with it.

For the front, we're thinking (Pittosporum Tenuifolium) Golden Sheen.

We only know the above after visiting Flower Power before. :) Overall, we're still a bit clueless and we'd really like to make a good choice.

Thanks, again.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby newbie2208 » Sat Dec 27, 2008 8:35 am

Thanks Brill, I agree this list is very limiting. We'll take a look at the Agonis.

Getting approval is just within a few weeks of our moving in. So yup, we were thinking the same approach. :o

So after the plant "dies" what can we replace it with. :)

Cheers.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby karyn » Sat Dec 27, 2008 10:03 am

Out of that list, I'd also go for the Agonis, but maybe the "after dark" variety? Any willow myrtle will drop small hard nuts, flowers and lots of little leaves throughout the year, but is definately a better option than some of the others. Your council must have bats in their belfries...some of those trees have roots that go for miles!! A claret ash would be nice but grow so tall that they will eventually shade out your yard plus all your neighbiur's houses too!
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby rosie » Sat Dec 27, 2008 10:25 am

Does Blacktown council still have their own nursery for ratepayers? Each year the ratepayers use to receive a voucher for 2 free plants to redeem at their nursery. From memory it use to be near the showground off Richmond Rd. Otherwise Nurragingy Reserve near Doonside stocks many of the plants from that list and maybe able to offer some advice what will grow best in your area.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby littlegarden » Sat Dec 27, 2008 10:27 am

Deciduous trees are great to have on the north side of a block. They give you shade in summer and sun in winter! But many deciduous trees struggle in the dry climate.

One I've heard touted recently is the Forest Pansy. It's fairly small and a bit bushy - not the kind to shade a whole yard, more a smallish feature tree. It makes masses of pink flowers, then beautiful purple leaves, then orange in the autumn. It's supposed to be as drought-tolerant as natives, once they're established.

Here's a photo from GE:
http://www.gardenexpress.com.au/photopo ... ?photo=227
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby MacMaples » Sat Dec 27, 2008 11:24 am

My first thought was . . . councils are now dictating what sort of landscaping you should have?
My second thought was . . . maybe that's actually not a bad idea! (Y) It would be good if there was something to prevent neighbours from, for example, planting a large evergreen to shade your northern side or planting a silky oak in foolish proximity to other properties.
Then I looked at the details. A 475m² block with the narrowest dimension in the backyard 4m. And they are recommending a medium to large tree in the backyard? Featured prominently in their list of suggestions are gum trees 30-40m high with a spread of 8m? On a 475m² block? One of the (relatively) smaller suggestions, Melaleuca linariifolia, rang a bell regarding getting into water pipes. Casuarinas can be allergenic. It appears the list disregards important issues such as the tendency to block drains or cause allergic reactions. With block sizes so small it doesn't even have to be something you planted to cause problems in your yard. So what WERE they thinking of when they came up with that list? :shock: (Come to think of it, I just remembered that when our "council" planted street trees in our suburb they chose a variety of eucalypt that is particularly prone to dropping branches. :roll: I love trees so it saddens me to say this but it is just as well most have not survived the drought.)
So who approves the landscaping plans? What are his qualifications? And perhaps more importantly, what is his practical experience? One would hope if bureaucrats meddle in these things it would be in order to achieve some actual benefits. Looking at the list I see an apparent preference for natives, but I don't see what other criteria they are trying to address.

I would draw a plan that includes things like water pipes and north facing windows (btw do you have underground power?) Also clothesline and outdoor entertaining area, footpaths and required access points, etc. Then I would get a hold of a list of what not to plant near pipes (water suppliers should have something, or I think someone posted a link to one such list somewhere). Then I would think about what I want the trees to achieve, summer shade to keep the house cooler, privacy from the street, privacy from neighbours windows, a canopy to sit under, a divider between the entertaining area and the service yard, purely aesthetic, etc. I would also give some thought to what other smaller plants will be planted nearby, both for aesthetic and practical compatibility. All this may help to identify what shape and size and style of trees you would like, and the best location for them.

Good on you for wanting to do some research rather than just plonk something from the list anywhere and have to fix it later (says she who realised the Chinese Pistachio had been planted where the path had to go :oops: ).
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby newbie2208 » Sat Dec 27, 2008 6:47 pm

Thanks for the most recent insights from Karyn to MacMaples. Really appreciate your responses.

The Design Review Panel as they call themselves, provide the guidelines for everything regarding the house build (e.g. easements, brick color, and landscaping, and many more details). We've asked them some questions, and from their email responses, they seem quite knowledgeable in providing and approving what goes into the landscaping plan. We have the same sentiment with regards to their good intentions with regards to all these guidelines, so am inclined to abide by them..., within reason.

They did fail to consider all that you've mentioned that while, they are native, they may be to big, provide too much shade, cause allergens, and block water pipes, etc. So I checked out our site plan again and saw that:

- at the back, we are 1.5m away from a sewer line (glad that the sewer line is not on our block)
- there is a sewer line which goes across the front of all blocks.

Too bad it does not say much about where the underground electricity/communications cables run.

But now, thanks to all of you, we are now better informed.

If it is of any significance or further interest, attached is the landscape plan we submitted, which I drew up myself. I was quite happy with it. :) It may help to answer some of the questions I saw on your responses as it includes some preliminary suggestions in terms of what to plant. Again some of what we've put into the plan were ideas we had after a visit to the nearest Flower Power.

Cheers!
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby brill » Sun Dec 28, 2008 6:26 am

You certainly don't have much room for gardens there, do you. The claret ash is a big tree for that spot. When fully grown it will tower over your house and keep that corner in shade. What do the neighbours have in that corner? Do you get bad storms in your area? What made you choose the cuphea?
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby MacMaples » Sun Dec 28, 2008 12:11 pm

Great plan, nicely done.
Wow, they don't develop blocks to maximise solar benefit do they? Okay, so the tree will affect morning sun in your family room.
I agree a Claret Ash would take up far more space than shown. A Trident Maple, also on the list, probably would too. So perhaps a smaller Japanese Maple instead? I have found maples self-seed though. A lack of encouraging conditions and an occasional scrape over the garden bed keeps that under control. I'm not sure what would happen in lawn, perhaps the regular mowing would take care of any that germinate? Another thing, much as I like the idea of sun access in winter, what provisions could you make for disposal of autumn leaves? Perhaps one of the smaller new varieties of flowering gums would be nice? We have one but we were more restricted in our choice due to frost and I can't really say much about it as we've only had it for about two years. I think it's supposed to be 5m tall and is fairly thin. I understand if climatic extremes aren't an issue then there are smaller ones available, 3-4m, with some rather nice colours.
Just wondering, did you mean to say there's a sewer line at both the front and the back, or is one the stormwater? Regarding the line 1.5m from you (that's 1.5m over the fence I take it?) bear in mind that tree roots will obey their nature, not fencelines and human boundaries.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby taffyman » Sun Dec 28, 2008 12:44 pm

475 metres? That's a very small block. I wonder just how small councils (pushed by developers) will let blocks get to :-?
With regards to your Claret Ash, it appears by your list and some research, that it could possibly grow to 20 metres given the right conditions. Even at 15 metres that would mean quite a big spread of foliage. Considering the size of your garden area, it means given time, the foliage will be spreading over into three other gardens as well as yours (assuming there are houses behind your block). Those three other home-owners may not appreciate someone else's tree shading out part of their garden, and although your neighbours at present may not be bothered by it, somewhere down the track they may sell and the new owners might take to the branches that are on their side of the fence. You might find your tree will end up with most of the growth and branches only on your side of the fence, or if they are really obnoxious enough you may find your tree dying after being poisoned.

Something else you might need to consider is if the branches of a deciduous tree spread over the corner of your house, you're going to be forever cleaning out your gutters of dead leaves (unless you have something like a gutter guard). Beautiful autumn foliage can be magnificent to look at, but can also be a right royal pain to a home-owner.

Another point is that you mention there is a sewer main 1.5 metres from your back fence. With a mature spread of up to 8 metres, the roots of the Ash will be well in the range of that sewer main.
Personally, I don't think there are too many - if any trees on that list that I would think about using myself. My thoughts would be more towards Pencil Pines or the like that can give you good privacy, but not take up too much space.
While we lived in Sydney we had a 635sqm block and the whole of the back garden was lined with them (not by us, by previous owners, but it was excellent).

That bit you wrote about not saying much about where the underground electricity/comms cable run is typical. Again, while in Sydney, I wanted to know where the storm water pipes, sewer and water pipes ran from the road to our house. The council had no idea - and no plans that showed them. Their answer? "dig a trench across your front lawn till you find them" :shock: :!: :!: :!: . Up here in QLD I asked Telstra (via their 'dial before you dig' number) where the phone lines went after they came under our fence (we have a 2 acre block). "No idea, we don't keep plans like that - you'll have to get someone to locate them for you" - so much for their dial before you dig :evil: It cost me $180.00 to get someone in with a detector to locate it, and the route was amazing, it zig-zagged all over the front of the block before finally going UNDER our garage and then up to the house.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby brill » Sun Dec 28, 2008 2:14 pm

I also paid someone to locate our phone, electricity and water lines before excavating. None of the service providers know or care where they are once on your property. With the guy I paid to locate the services, the phone and water were 1 to 2mtrs from where he said - we found them ourselves while excavating, rusulting in a 5pm dash to the hardware for connectors to al least stop the water. Had to pay telstra to reconnect the phone. As for the electricity, we knew which general area it was so avoided that area. After that experience I don't think much of those who locate services.
However, on that note. Does anyone know anything about locating underground leaks. I think we have a leak in our irrigation pipe and I wondered if we could get a more precise location before digging. That's if they work, of course.
Some smaller growing tree species to consider for back yard (if they grow in your location) are Backhousia. Austromyrtus, Archidendron,Eleocarpus (these have large and smaller growing varieties so choose carefully) Eucalyptus curtisii, Xanthostemon Fairfill Gold or Expo Gold are also smaller growing trees. That sewer line on the other side of the fence is a problem, even more so for your back neighbours.
Small blocks are the way of the future and I think we'll have to learn to live with them unless we want to keep developing estates further and further out. My main complaint with them is the size and/or shape of the house being put on them. I lived in inner Brisbane for years on a 260m2 block. The house was an old workers cottage that I raised to create 2 levels to get the extra room we needed. As a result, even though the yard was small, we still had a 4 bedroom 2 bathroom house and a yard that actually had room for trees and a garden. The houses should be 2 story on small blocks so they take up less room.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby newbie2208 » Mon Dec 29, 2008 10:49 am

We don't have any neighbors yet. Although the lots around us have been sold, we're probably among the first to build. So there's no one behind or beside us yet.

We don't have a lot of storms... although it can get windy. I guess we should change the claret ash to something smaller. We chose the cuphea only because it looked like a good option for shrubs.

Yes, that sewer line behind us is 1.5m away from our fence or boundary. I guess you're all right in saying that we should choose a tree that does not have a wide reach with its roots. I guess it also won't hurt to ask the developer if they know where those electric/comms cable run through... just to be sure.

Anyway, will consider all your suggestions... thanks all very much. :)
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby daffy » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:28 am

Hmmm.... :-?
Unforunately the best place to plant a shade tree is right in the middle of that space and there is nothing on the list which is suitable for the space, ask the council if a silk tree(albizia julibrissin) is acceptable, it doesn't get huge and will give you a canopy.
A weeping cherry in the front would look good.

(btw my golden elm is planted in the middle of a 1 acre garden!)
Last edited by daffy on Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby Tropicgardener » Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:00 pm

Remind never to buy a house in an estate with such prohibitative vegetation laws. Such a relatively small yard (and dare I say most other yards would be similar size) yet they have Corymbia maculata on the list. Any council would have a fight on their hands if they attempted to restrict what I planted.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby newbie2208 » Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:13 pm

Thanks Daffy will consider your input.

Well, we're quite happy with this lot size and to be honest can't really afford to buy anything bigger. :) So we're very open to all the suggestions we can get and plant whatever is best. I think that the board is not that unreasonable. We even emailed them some suggestions (e.g. the golden elm) that were not on the list and they were open to it. They said yes to the golden elm but they did say that I should plant it somewhere in the middle, and joked that they hope I like raking leaves.
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Re: Searching for the right tree

Postby Elina » Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:45 pm

What about Silver Birch it is deciduous fairly large crown isn't to big nice colour in autumn and of course plenty leaves to rake up and fill your gutters.
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