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McKechnie Nurseries
McKechnie Nurseries, Robinson Road, Coatesville, RD3, Albany
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More on colour

By Grant McKechnie
Rodney Times
June 9, 2009

Last month we talked about deciduous trees and in particular, maples. I’m going to continue the theme this month, but concentrate on other trees that are particularly good for rural plantings.

By rural plantings, I’m thinking about hillsides and gullies where you can paint with a broad brush. If you’re lucky enough to have such an area to plant, there are some fabulous trees you can include. Plant in groups of threes, fives or sevens – or more – depending on the space available.

How many trees are you going to need? Probably not as many as you might think. As a rough guide, all of the trees we’re talking about here are big growing.  At 5m apart they will touch after five to 10 years. At 10m apart, they will touch at 10 or more years – so  large areas are quickly accounted for.

It might be that closer spacing suits you better. With closer planting, your trees touch faster, smothering those competing grasses and weeds. But remember to plant far enough from the fence that stock can’t reach the trees.

In your planting, you should have at least one example of the quercus family (oaks). Their growth rate might not be the quickest, but they turn into great stately trees. They’re robust trees, and tough in the wind.

The English oak (Quercus robur) is a big, round-headed tree with yellow autumn colour. A variation, Q robur ‘Fastigiata’, the upright English oak, is tall and narrow, similar to a Lombardy poplar.

Pin oak (Q palustris) has a lovely almost weeping form and can handle damp soils. Scarlet oak (Q coccinea) has big leaves, good red autumn colour and a big round head. Another big tree, similar to the scarlet oak is the red oak (Q rubra). As it matures, its leaves get very large and show good autumn colour.

Sticking with reds, claret ash (Fraxinus oxycarpa ‘Raywoodii’) and liquidambar are always good value. The liquidambars are predominantly reds to purples in autumn, but they can show yellows and oranges as well, and grow up to a metre a year. Likewise, claret ash grows quickly, with deep red early autumn colour and good wind hardiness.

For a change in colour, ginkgo gives stunning butter-yellow autumn colour. It’s a bit slow growing and needs protection from strong winds, but is well worth finding a place for. Melia also gives yellow autumn colour, along with yellow berries in winter and mauve flowers in summer.

For rich russet-brown tonings, use swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) or pond cypress (T ascendens), which have soft, fresh green foliage that turns coppery in autumn. Taxodiums can handle from normal to very wet, swampy soil. Another tree with very similar foliage is dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). It’s quick growing, conical in shape and has tawny pink to russet autumn colour.

As you can see, there are lots of choices. Finding room for them all will be the real problem.

Happy planting.

©2010 Grant McKechnie

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