Big shade, deciduous trees for urban situations

In our urban world of outdoor entertaining and smaller personal green spaces, the landscaping challenge is to find the ‘right’ tree for the situation. If you are looking at deciduous selections that provide year-round interest as well as functionality, here are a few trees that may be your ‘right’ tree.

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In our urban world of outdoors entertaining, compact living and smaller personal green spaces, the landscaping challenge is to find the ‘right’ tree for the situation and therefore the most suitable selection for the job. Sometimes this is just aesthetic appeal, but most of the time the tree will serve a greater function.

Will it screen neighbours, encourage fauna or flora habitat, minimise heat and/or maximise cool at the right times of the year?  To select the ‘right’ tree in any circumstance, you must start with understanding what you want that tree to do.

If you are looking for non-native, deciduous selections that provide year-round interest and functionality, here are a few trees that maybe your ‘right’ tree.

Pistacia chinensis. Growing to 8m tall, Chinese Pistachio is a lovely small, deciduous tree with a traditional form and moderate growth rate. This ornamental variety does not produce nuts. When mature it will provide a broad canopy for summer shade, a beautiful trunk and bark in winter when limbs are bare and great colour in autumn.

Fraxinus ‘Urbdell’ and ‘Cimmzam’. Slightly taller than Pistachio, both of these Ash varieties are excellent for bigger shade and bold autumn colour and as such, are well sought after as a large feature tree in residential and commercial landscaping. Considering differences, ‘Urbdell’ may be more pyramidal in shape, but both produce dark, glossy green foliage and furrowed bark on their trunks. In the colour stakes, ‘Cimmzam’ wins out, but not by much.

Ulmus glabra ‘Lutescens’. Golden Elm offers an obvious colour alternative to the dark greens of the previous two selections. Leaves are almost translucent and yellowy-lime in colour. If you are looking for colour contrast but prefer a softer tree, Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’  (Golden Honey Locust) might be the right one for you. Its finer foliage accentuates its naturally weeping habit resulting in a tree that is softer and perhaps more graceful in appearance.

Acer rubrum ‘Autumn Red’. Also known as 'April Splendour' and 'October Glory' - this very common North American deciduous tree produces a lovely rounded canopy when fully mature. This is another sought-after selection for autumn colour as well as its colour transition through the seasons.  Big leaves are green in summer for broad canopy against the sun and in winter its V-shaped form with a strong single leader makes for an excellent focal point in the landscape.

These selections have the right foliage density and form to throw shade in summer while not growing too big to maintain or overwhelm a standard house block. For ideal selections, we feel these also give back in terms of visual or sensory interest at other times of the year too. As trees ideal for urban areas, they should appear on your list for big tree, year-round, deciduous appeal.

This lovely small, deciduous tree has a moderate growth rate and great autumn colour in shades of orange, yellow and red. Bark is dark grey with shallow furrows and this variety is capable of withstanding relatively harsh conditions. Interesting pinnate leaves emerge green and leathery and although inconspicuous, clusters of small white flowers are borne in summer, followed by red drupes which mature to blue. 40cm/27L 100L
A medium-sized deciduous tree which has a vase shape when young, but develops into a tree with a more rounded canopy as it matures. This fast-growing elm is wide spreading, becoming wider than it is tall with age. It has golden foliage and provides good shade for those summer days. Leaves are bright green which may vary in intensity depending on position and exposure to sunlight. In autumn, the foliage puts on a show, turning a brilliant yellow before falling. 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 100L
This is a striking feature tree which provides great summer shade. It has a uniform branch structure with bark which becomes deeply furrowed as it matures. Attractive dark green foliage is lighter on the underside and transitions through an array of colours starting with yellows, fiery reds and rich burgundy as the weather cools in autumn. The leaves hold onto the tree longer into winter than other varieties of this species. 30cm/14L 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 100L 200L
This tree is attractive and tough. It has a pyramid shape with a strong, upright trunk and develops grey brown bark which becomes deeply furrowed as it matures. Yellowish-green flowers are produced in spring and in autumn, dark green, glossy foliage turns a beautiful bronze colour before falling. Suitable to a wide variety of both residential and commercial projects, it has a moderate growth rate and adapts to most soils and conditions. 30cm/14L 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 100L 200L
This is a very common deciduous tree in North America. It is a beautiful rounded tree with ascending branches when young, maturing to a more rounded canopy. Great for autumn colour. Leaves stay green longer than other varieties before turning bright orange to deep red. All parts of the tree, for example flowers, twigs and seeds, are red in varying shades. This tree is also known as 'October Glory' or 'April Splendour'. 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 200L
A beautiful, deciduous tree with a broad, open, spreading canopy and soft, weeping, hanging, pendulous branches. Young foliage, bipinnate leaves, start off a bright yellow colour and ripens to lime green. In winter, large black seed pods hang from the branches. It is a popular tree due to its vibrant colour and overall graceful appearance. This is a thornless variety of Gleditsia. 30cm/14L 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 100L 200L

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