By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, practical gardeners and authors living in Spain for 25 Years

Recently we were asked by email to recommend a tree for the centre of a thirty metre square walled patio garden facing south. As we explained to the questioner, it is not that simple, as a number of factors need to be taken into account as outlined below. The possible trees are selected from those described in the flowering fruiting and evergreen tree sections of Part Four of our book ‘Your Garden in Spain – From Planning Planting and Maintenance’.

For instance one needs to consider the following ten issues:

  1. Is the tree for shade or colour or both?
  2. Do you want all year round shade or just in the summer?
  3. In return for a great show of spectacular flowers are you willing to cope with a major fall of dead flowers and leaves or would only a clean tree be acceptable? A Judas tree looks great when in flower around Easter and when in leaf during the summer, but then has a heavy autumn leaf fall and hundreds of seed pods that need removing to tidy the tree for winter.
  4. Do you want to see through the tree to the outer beds of the patio as you wander round the central bed? One tree that meets this need perfectly is a Caesalpinia Gilliesii, or Bird of Paradise tree, which has wonderful large flowers for months and does not grow too tall or dense. The feathery leaves give a Chinese look, especially on a well pruned open tree. A Frangipani could also be planted in very sheltered places.
  5. Do you want an instant tree, or are you willing to be patient?
  6. Naturally small trees are less expensive than mature trees that need to come on a lorry and be lifted into position with a crane.
  7. Do you want a tree that integrates into the total patio garden, or do you want a tall wide tree that dominates the patio and will be eventually a feature seen from other gardens or the street? If so, trees such as the evergreen Norfolk Island Pine, Orchid Bauhina and Chorisia could be considered.
  8. Would you like to pick fruit from the tree? If so a specimen Citrus tree such as a perpetual flowering and fruiting Lunar Lemon, a Persimmon that has late colourful fruit and interesting leaves, a Pomegranate tree with its elegant waxy flowers and colourful fruit, or a large spreading Fig tree are possibilities.
  9. Do you want a tree that is likely to be long lived? If so avoid Palms as most varieties have now been attacked by the dreaded Palm Weevil in various parts of Spain and some species of yellow flowered Acacias only last for about a dozen years.
  10. Do you want to preserve something of Spain’s disappearing heritage? If so, a several hundred year old or even, if you have the cash, a thousand year old Olive tree could fit the bill. A Cork Oak with part of its cork bark cut off to expose the bright orange inner trunk can also look attractive. For those that want a clean garden recognise that both these trees have leaf and fruit falls although essentially evergreen.
  11. Do you want a tree that provides dappled shade so that other plants can be planted in the shade below the canopy either in the ground or in pots? If so consider a Jacaranda, False Acacia or a Fir tree.

We could go on, but the point has been made. Think wisely before planting up the centre of patios. In some cases an attractive water fountain would be better than a tree.

A new book from Dick Handscombe.

gardening-1Next month we are launching a new forty page booklet titled ‘Making Waterless Gardens a Practical Reality Worldwide’. It includes several hundred practical ideas and at only 3€ plus 1€ postage and packing in Spain, it is a must for all gardeners in southern Spain. To place a pre-publication order, send your name address and 4€ in Spanish postage stamps to Clodagh Brown, Apartado de Correos 572, 03730 Javea, Alicante

The booklet would make an ideal Christmas present for friends. Three copies can be sent for 10€ in Spanish stamps.

Clodagh and Dick Handscombe