Time to go indigenous

Johannesburg - National Arbor Week (September 1 to 7) is a time we are encouraged to promote the planting and maintenance of indigenous trees.

Trees provide shade in summer and shelter for birds.

The tree wisteria (Bolusanthus speciosus) offers a spectacular vision in spring. Picture: Kay Montgomery. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Studies have also shown that over a period of about 15 years, approximately 500kg of carbon is “stored” per tree.

SA’s 1973 Green Heritage Campaign suggested a National Tree of the Year celebration and by 1982, the concept was launched by the former Department of Forestry. In 1996, Arbor Day was extended to a week.

“Our forests, our future” is the 2012 theme of this year’s celebrations and three indigenous trees are under the spotlight as National Trees of the Year. Only one of these three trees can possibly survive in a Joburg garden, the water-loving indigenous waterberry (Syzygium cordatum). An evergreen 6-15m tall tree, it only does well in a full sun near a stream, near a pond or in a damp, well-irrigated garden. Scented feathery cream flowers bloom from spring to winter and attract bees and other insects that attract birds. The flowers are followed by purple fruit that is eaten by animals.

The others are a mangrove species (black mangrove, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza) from the subtropical KwaZulu-Natal coast and a frost-tender forest tree (red beech, Protorhus longifolia) from the Transkei coastal belt.

If your garden is very small, it might be best to choose a deciduous tree that will lose its leaves in winter, thus allowing your home to receive much-needed winter sun for warmth in the colder months.

Conversely, a small evergreen tree might be ideal for providing privacy for your garden from neighbouring upstairs’ windows. Prune the lower branches of evergreen trees as they grow to allow more light into the garden or house.

Trees for small gardens

Here are a host of indigenous trees that are ideally suited to small Gauteng gardens and can be planted this weekend: