Indigenous fairy tale trees Industry Expert Q&A

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous

September’s Topic: The local magic spring brings
Theme: Indigenous fairy tale trees  

Industry Expert: Brett Hughes
Garden Centre: Tree Factor in Limpopo  

 

Calling all tree-loving landscapers and gardeners – are you ready for a gust of sensational wind through your branches? Our industry expert, Brett Hughes from Tree Factor, has treated us to a simply divine spread of wisdom and passion with an equally magnificent tree selection! Spring is 100% bringing that local magic.  

1. Your stunning variety of trees and “greening the way” for SA approach is truly inspiring and awesome! Please tell us more about your philosophy and why trees are so important/beneficial?

As a horticulturist for the past 35 years, I have seen the deforestation in our own country today, despite the world’s plight on the current carbon footprint and efforts to plant up highways and urban areas. There are particular points that I would like to make in this regard – not purposefully highlighting the destruction, but in an effort to showcase the undesirability thereof.

 

Firstly, we have organisations like SANRAL – stripping trees on the side of our roads and highways by the kilometre, sometimes only marula trees being kept but destroying all the other hardwoods, which is not desirable. And then we get Eskom who eliminates every single tree within 20-30m of every powerline – that’s millions of trees being taken out annually. There’s also the mining industry, who are not under pressure anymore to rehabilitate like they used to. I think the councils are trying to put their efforts into planting trees, but again, I don’t think government is giving them enough budget to plant trees and to support our industry enough. There is definitely some effort needed to help and put pressure on government to get the local councils involved in tree planting again.

 

Homelands also, are being stripped because people are trying to find a place to stay and often, not purposefully, but unfortunately, they remove most of the trees on their site. Planting in urban areas will make a tremendous difference to the greening of our environment. Trees are vital. They give life, they stabilise the soil, provide food, shelter, and shade for both humans and wildlife.

 

Ultimately, I believe if we don’t start planting trees in urban zones we’ll never catch up. If we take Johannesburg for an example, they have done brilliantly in the past to create a city that is actually a green city. Perhaps one of the biggest green zones in the world and that was because of City Parks and government that really made an effort. So now, we are calling upon the public to do their part. If everyone plants at least one or two trees in their lifespan, it will make a huge difference.

 

When people buy their first home, mostly it’s the first time they start gardening. Planting a tree is an important facet - not just for the environment, but also for the shading of a little seating area, or to invite birds into the garden if the tree presents itself with berries. A tree for the children to climb or to build a swing. We plant trees for our future generation to enjoy. “The true meaning of life is to plant trees; under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Let’s encourage tree planting in urban areas so that we can “green the way” to a sustainable future.

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
2. Please spill the beans on some of your all-time top sellers and what makes them so popular?

We’re a warm climate, temperate zone nursery, and therefore are able to grow hot and cold climate trees. We grow for the bushveld lodges etc., but we also mainly supply the Gauteng region. Our top-selling trees are Wild plum (Harpephyllum caffrum), Fever tree (Vachellia xanthophloea), and Paperbark thorn (Vachellia sieberiana).

 

  • Firstly, the Wild plum is a very good tree for warmer climate regions and does well in Gauteng areas with no frost. It’s an evergreen, medium-sized tree used for screening off neighbours or buildings in the urban areas. Another advantage is that it has a wonderful berry that the birds love and good density for the perfectly shaded area.
  • Secondly, the Fever tree, traditionally seen as a bushveld tree, is a popular choice at lodges in our area where there is lots of space. It has a lovely stem, foliage, and flowers. Birds (especially weavers) love to nest in it. Fever trees become very big with strong characters. It is also a popular tree in urban areas for street tree planting, however it does have an aggressive root system, and will need enough space.
  • Third on our list we have Paperbarks. They have a nice flat-topped habit and in colder zones even more so. It is often called the Flat top Acacia. Again, a lovely tree that is a favourite nesting site for barbets and has a lovely wide canopy - a favourite for parking lots and street tree planting.
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
3. Are there any specific trees that are well-suited for (a) beginner gardeners, and (b) small gardens? Could you also give us some growing tips for these trees?

For beginner gardeners, people who are not sure of what to plant, and for smaller gardens, you can never go wrong by planting one of these 5 species:

  • Forest elder (Nuxia floribunda) is great for screening
  • Jacket plum (Pappea capensis) produces lovely berries for birds
  • Lavender tree (Heteropyxis natalensis) has height and character
  • White ironwood (Vepris lanceolata) is ideal for screening
  • Wild olive (Olea sub. Africana) has lovely grey foliage and attracts birds

 

All the above-mentioned species do not have an aggressive root system, which is important for a beginner gardener because sometimes they tend to plant trees right up against the boundary wall. These five species can be planted in warmer regions as well as colder regions. They are already used extensively in the Gauteng urban areas and are successful in small spaces. Most importantly, all are evergreen. Only the Lavender tree has a variation in its foliage during flowering time and tends to drop some leaves.

 

Some advice: Don’t put trees in the corners of your gardens. Bring them slightly into the more open space then you won’t have those problems in 8 to 12 years’ time regarding root systems and cracking of walls. Do not plant trees too close to a swimming pool to avoid disturbing the foundations.

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous, Botanical boss
4. The crow flew and told us that you have a specific ‘bird and wildlife’ tree category, how exciting! Would you please tell us about some your favourites and what kind of friendly visitors gardeners can look forward to when planting these trees?

A must for the bird lover’s garden would be the Mitzeeri or brown stinkwood (Bridelia micrantha). The ripe fruits are very popular with many of the fruit-eating birds like African green pigeons, Cape glossy starlings, purple-crested and grey louries, black-collard- and crested barbets, mousebirds, and bulbuls. In our area the False buffalo thorn (Ziziphus rivularis), which is an upright thornless tree, has yellow berries that also attracts flocks of birds like the go-away-bird, bulbuls, and barbets.

 

You can always expect a special visit from the Diederik and emerald cuckoo, which love the fruit of the Wild peach tree (Kiggelaria Africana). And during the fruiting period, Brown ivory trees (Berchemia discolor) are a firm favourite for not only baboons, vervet monkeys, and various fruit-eating birds – but humans also find the sweet date-like taste quite pleasant.

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
5. Since we are focusing on indigenous fairy tale trees as part of our local magic theme, please share with us some of the more unique/unusual trees and what makes them so special? Do they have unique flowers, strange fruit, or special functions?

An interesting tree that should be used more in small gardens is the Snuffbox (Oncoba spinosa). It is a lovely small natured tree with a beautiful white and yellow flower. It has thorns but luckily doesn’t drop them. Bushveld areas use this tree a lot and it can be used more in urban areas as it is suitable for small spaces. The seed itself is round and has a lovely brown colour with a wonderful scent to it. You can put the seed in a bowl and your home will have a great decorative look and aroma looming in the air for some time.

 

Another terrific tree worth mentioning is the Sausage tree (Kigelia Africana). Those that have visited and will be visiting the Kruger National Park during winter will have noticed that all the sausage trees have lovely seed on them. What’s interesting about this tree is that it becomes very old and there are some magnificent specimens in the Kruger Park. When it flowers, it only flowers for a couple of days in the year during, pollinated by bats to create those beautiful seeds!

 

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
6. Which tree(s) would you recommend as a pop of personality for container growing on the patio? Are there any growing tips you could share?

The tree that comes to mind is Forest elder (Nuxia floribunda). It is used in gardens for screening but as a container-grown tree, it keeps a nice shape. It is a small habited tree so it keeps form well. With a creamy-white stem, nice white flowers, and lovely fresh green foliage, it is quite an attractive tree. Interestingly, sunbirds like to harvest some nectar from the white flowers. A tip I would say is that Nuxia floribunda can be shaped or manipulated as one pleases. You could hold it back into a bonsai if you wanted to as it responds well to pruning.

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
7. If space wasn’t a concern and you could design the ultimate large tree, decorative landscape, which trees (local or exotic) would you recommend and what makes them so magical?

There are so many options in the indigenous fauna/flora that there’s actually no need to choose exotic today. So rather stick to our indigenous species! The first thing to always think about when choosing a tree is to consider your location and climate. Do you have children? Consider a tree that will be suitable for them to climb and enjoy.

We would therefore choose something like Weepingboerbean (Schotia brachypetala). This is a beautiful tree with red flowers that attracts a wide range of bird species – especially sunbirds. It has a good canopy and grows in most conditions.

Another favourite we recommend for warmer temperate zones is Brown ivory (Berchemia discolor). This tree is a quick grower with very nice fresh colour foliage and a wonderful shape with a secure branching framework. Brown ivories attract a lot of garden friends and is also semi-evergreen.

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
 8. Are there any other general tree maintenance hacks and practices you feel it’s important for gardeners to know?

Trees generally thrive in favourable conditions. Always remember to water well during the hotter summer months but not too often in winter. Never be afraid to prune your trees. Pruning your tree will not only enable you to remove dead branches and shape it accordingly, but also encourage new growth as new leaves will push through. It will also assist with light and air coming through to other leaves and branches. Protect trees that are planted on the lawn from lawnmowers and weed eaters. Most trees that are planted in lawns are killed or damaged due to ringbarking that will restrict a tree’s growth. Young trees planted in lawn areas need to have a dam around them, otherwise the lawn deprives the tree from nutrients and water. Also, tender young trees should be protected from the cold during winter with frost cover for the first few years.

life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous
life is a garden, tree factor, birds, biodiversity, unique, colour, greenery, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, vibrant, indigenous

With this volume of insight and expert advice, there really isn’t much left for us to say! We trust that your planting journey will be simply tree-rific and richly rewarding to your home, our country, and all our gorgeous wildlife. Find and contact a GCA Garden Centre to purchase the indigenous tree of your dreams: https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/category/garden-centres/. Life is a Garden, what legacy will yours leave behind?  

Share This: