Planting a Shade Tree

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Planting a Shade Tree


Dianne Fiddyment, from Narraweena in New South Wales, emailed Don to ask for advice. A very large liquidambar (Liquidambar styraciflua) was recently removed from her garden. The garden is large and the effect of the removal has been devastating on both ambiance and temperature. Dianne is planning to build a deck on the side of the house, but it would be virtually unusable without some shade in summer.

Beautiful new tree

Don decided to replace the liquidambar with a michelia (Michelia maudiae). Named after the 17th century Italian botanist Pietro Antonio Micheli, michelias come from southern Asia and the foothills of the Himalayas. They belong to the ancient ‘flowering plant’ family, Magnoliaceae, along with their close relatives the magnolias. One of the differences between michelias and magnolias is that michelia flowers are in the leaf axils, rather than at the ends of the branches.
Michelia maudiae is an evergreen tree from China, which grows in cultivation to around 6m (20′) tall and wide. It has leathery, glaucous green leaves and large, pure white fragrant flowers in late winter to spring. The flowers have wide, tapered petals, sometimes with pink shading at the base.

Planting the michelia Don checked his compass, and then in consultation with Dianne, decided to plant the tree in a position to provide shade for the barbecue area. Using a timber peg and string line, Don drew a circle on the lawn with spray marker paint. The turf was removed with a sharp spade and then set aside. It was later used to cover the area where the liquidambar had once been. A hole was dug for the new tree, and some good quality compost was incorporated to enrich the existing soil and build up the level of the bed. (Tip: when planting large, advanced trees, it is very important to raise the level of the bed to avoid root rot.) Because of the size of the tree, it was not going to be easy to move once dropped into the hole. Therefore, Don worked out in advance which side of the tree would face the house. The tree was laid gently on its side beside the planting hole. Don tapped the container to loosen the root ball, then used a combination of lifting and sliding to remove the tree from the pot. The tree was then dropped into position in the planting hole. Don backfilled around the root ball to create a mound, allowing for perfect drainage. The tree was watered in thoroughly, and then the area was mulched with composted pine bark. A circle of drip line (with a connection for a standard hose fitting) was looped around the base of the tree for deep watering.

Further information


Michelia maudiae costs around $60 for a 200mm (8") pot. Our 2.5m advanced tree cost about $350.

Pope Drip-Eze Irrigation System, 13mm x 15m, costs about $25 from garden centres, irrigation specialists and hardware stores.

Good quality garden compost costs about $12 for a 25 litre bag.