Look after your tree, it will grow on you
Trees: we often take them for granted, without any thought of their value and usefulness. They are found on the coastline, along roads in woodlands and, of course, our gardens, and yet do we ever stop to think how and why they got there and what is their purpose?
Trees improve spaces by bringing aesthetic value, especially in areas of hard landscaping; they delineate spaces of differing use. They can assist in circulation and guide movement in both vehicular and pedestrian areas, to inform direction and destination. In Bermuda, they are ideal for giving shade
The main factors to consider when selecting trees are location, reason for planting and type of tree. Most properties do not have the area of land for planting medium or large trees; only larger properties and open spaces have the capacity to accommodate such species. Trees around buildings are likely to cause problems, especially from the extensive root zones found on trees. The “rule of thumb” is that they equal the top growth at the drip line of foliage. Pruning back branches does nothing in prohibiting root growth, so the exercise is a waste of time.
Trees by their very nature have a trunk, therefore when buying a tree ensure it has the symmetry of its type, ie a straight trunk with a reasonable height clearance from base to first growth of branches which are well proportioned in shape and configuration.
Most importantly, ensure the tree is healthy and the roots are not pot-bound by strangulation. This can be determined by size of container; a tree height of 8 feet should be in a 45-gallon container or similar size.
Looking at tree size, the larger, more common ones include: black ebony (Albizia lebbek), poinciana (Delonix regia), Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria excelsa), white cedar (Tabebuia pallida), mahogany (Swietenia mahogani), weeping Ceylon willow (Ficus benjamina exotica), West Indian Almond (Terminalia catappa), pride of India (Melia azedarach) and Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata).
With small to medium-sized trees, the more common ones include: Jerusalem thorn (Parkinsonia aculeata), Bottlebrush (Callistemon sp), frangipani (Plumeria sp), Scarlet Cordia (Cordia sebestena), Bermuda Olivewood (Cassine laneanum), Bay grape (Coccoloba uvifera), loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), carib wood (Sabinea carinalis) and olive (Olea europaea).
Trees are either evergreen or deciduous. With the former you have Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria excelsa), Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) and magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora).
Deciduous species would include the poinciana (Delonix regia), black ebony (Albizia lebbek), frangipani (Plumeria sp), Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) and pride of India (Melia azedarach).
We have had three years with hurricanes hitting us in October. As that’s late in the season, it invariably means a heavy head of foliage which, when hit by strong winds, increases the damage exponentially. Such damage, for the sake of the trees’ future health, demands professional attention to identify the extent of damage and how to develop a pruning programme which will encourage new growth while retaining the shape of the tree.
It is really false economy to have trees pruned by “just anyone”, especially when they have no knowledge of the structure of a tree’s growth habit. Removal of a branch can ruin the future shape and integrity of a specimen tree. It is also not cost-effective as, invariably, an initial “removal of branches” will create problems for potential new growth and therefore becomes an ongoing, redundant exercise.
Using the services of an arboriculturist/tree surgeon who is a trained professional in tree work will give peace of mind and create a well-structured, healthy and mature specimen throughout the life of the tree; such a service should, on mature trees, be considered every three years. Look after your tree; with a little TLC, it will grow on you!
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