It has become increasingly common for gardens to become smaller, especially in communal living developments – garden space is of course a commodity. With this a reality for many homeowners, choosing the right-sized trees to plant is vital. Spargo Landscape Consultants has helped us compile their list of top-10 indigenous trees which work for small townhouse and complex gardens.
#1 Indigofera jucunda (River Indigo)
Evergreen or semi evergreen depending on the frost in an area, it is a graceful shrub or small tree growing to a height of 2,5m to 4m; the main stem is greyish brown in colour. When a new flush of leaves are borne they are a bright green but fade darker as they mature. This tree has small pink and white scented flowers which are displayed from December to April. From May to July you will find small reddish brown cylindrical pods on the tree. It grows well in sandy and loam soil, and responds well to full sun and semi-shaded areas.
Top Tip: This tree also attracts birds and butterflies into the garden.
#2 Buddleja Saligna (False Olive)
Evergreen, frost hardy with gorgeous olive green leaves. It grows to a height of between 4m to 6m tall. It grows into a very dense and compact tree, and is excellent to use for screening purposes. It bears clusters of sweetly scented white flowers from August to January and attracts birds and insects (mostly bees and butterflies). It can be planted in full sun and in semi shade, and has a fairly aggressive root system.
Top Tip: This tree is best planted away from pools and paving.
#3 Halleria lucida (Tree Fuchsia)
Evergreen and semi-hardy, the top new shoots may get slightly burnt with a heavy frost. This beautiful tree/shrub grows to a height of between 3m to 6m tall. It is an excellent tree for the bird and butterfly garden, with a non-aggressive root system. Tubular red/orange flowers grow directly on the branches and are rich in nectar; a yellow variety is now available on the market too.
#4 Rothmannia Capensis (Wild Gardenia)
An evergreen tree/shrub that grows to a height of between 5m to 6m tall, and flowers from December to February. It releases a strong fragrance from its cream white flowers. Large green fruit forms after the flowers have bloomed.
Top Tip: It has a non-aggressive root system and prefers light, well-drained soil.
Evergreen silver foliage covers this beautiful ornamental tree. It has a conical shape and grows to a height of between 4m to 6m tall. Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. Male flowers are apricot in colour and female flowers develop into cones with a silver colour.
#6 Cussonia paniculate (Kiepersol/Cabbage trees)
Usually deciduous but can be evergreen in milder climates, they grow to a height of 5m tall but are fairly slow-growing. If planted alone it makes a beautiful specimen tree and goes well with modern architecture.
Top Tip: This tree has an aggressive root system so don’t plant close to foundations, paving and pools.
#7 Heteropyxis natalensis (Lavender tree)
This deciduous tree with dark green foliage boasts a trunk that is a mustard-tan in colour with flaky mottled bark. Crushed leaves smell of lavender and small fragrant cream flowers are borne December to March. This tree attracts bees and butterflies, and slow-growing and frost-tender for its first three years. The lavender tree prefers a well-drained compost rich soil and grows to a height of 6m.
#8 Dias cotinifolia (Pompom tree)
This semi-deciduous tree which has a rounded crown with glossy blue green foliage, boasts a smooth grey-brown bark. The tree is covered with masses of pinkish-mauve pompom-like flowers from November to February. It has a non-aggressive root system and grows to a height of 6m tall.
#9 Diospyros whyteana (Bladdernut)
If this evergreen tree/shrub with its glossy-green foliage is left to go wild, it will form a multi-stemmed shrub. Prune the lower branches to open up the tree. Sweet-scented cream-yellow flowers are found on the tree from August to November, it has a non-aggressive root system and can be plated in containers on a patio. It is fairly fast-growing and can reach a height of 5m, making it an excellent hedge and screen.
#10 Euclea crispa (Blue guarri)
This tree is evergreen, frost-hardy and drought resistant. It makes a well-shaped tree and is slow-growing with blue-green foliage which reaches a height of 5m. The tree is excellent for low-lying areas and attracts birds and butterflies, and has a non-aggressive root system that does well in sandy and rocky gardens.
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Who is Nicholas Spargo?
Nicholas Spargo, owner of Spargo Landscape Consultants, has been in the landscape trade for 12 years as well as being a lecturer at the Lifestyle Garden Design Centre for the past year. He was awarded a Gold for a design at the Lifestyle Garden Design Centre Design Show in 2008, is an Invasive Species Consultant and is affiliated with the South African Green Industries Council.
Landscaping and education are very close to his heart.