Trees are especially valuable providing careful selection has taken place and a little research and forethought has been given before planting. Mistakes with tree choices and placement can be very costly indeed!
If starting your garden from scratch it is a good idea to drive around the streets of Darwin and observe the trees that you find most attractive. It is also a good idea to take a walk through our lovely Botanic Gardens, and visit local nurseries.
A gardening book will help you check out the names of the trees that you find most appealing, ascertain their mature heights and shapes and then read up a little on their requirements. You will soon know which trees are safe to plant near your house, which ones provide year-round shade and privacy, and which ones you may wish to avoid.
When choosing trees for your garden remember that Australian natives encourage birds and help reduce water costs. Water requirements should be given serious consideration before any planting takes place. Indeed, water is a precious commodity and we have a big responsibility to use it as wisely as possible—this becomes a very obvious issue during the long months of Darwin's dry season.
Large trees produce deep shade and while deep shade in Darwin is most welcome be aware that concentrated shade will reduce the ability of many other plants to flower and fruit.
Also think about the resultant tree roots. Roots can invade other properties and cause pool damage for your neighbours and cause all sorts of problems for their pathways. Tree roots can also wreak havoc with your own driveway. The roots of Ficus species, particularly, have a tendency to seek water sources, eg plumbing and sewage systems.
You also need to take a responsible attitude regarding large trees and the possibility of storm damage.
Some large trees common in the Darwin area are Albizia lebbeck (White Siris), Allosyncarpia ternata, Alstonia actinophylla (NT Milkwood), Calophyllum inophyllum (Beauty Leaf), Canarium australianum, Ganophyllum falcatum, Maranthes corymbosum and Peltophorum pterocarpum.
These trees are excellent as shade providers and provide shelter and homes for many native animals and birds, but available space and individual conditions should be taken into consideration.
Many home gardeners prefer small trees, palms and shrubs and find them more manageable. Certainly the smaller trees reduce pruning costs and suffer less in high winds. Even if blown down during storms or cyclones the risk of damage or injury to property or persons is obviously reduced with smaller trees.
Speciality gardens making full use of a range of smaller plants can be most attractive. A small tree garden can provide variety, colour and scent, as well as nectar for the birds and fruit for your table. Planning however, is important.
Resist seeing an appealing plant, buying it on impulse and planting without any research or knowledge. It is one thing to have a collection of plants complementing each other, and quite another to have a haphazard collection with no overall plan.
Some of the most attractive small to medium flowering trees that do well in Darwin include Cassia marginata and Cassia nodosa, Lagerstromiea speciosa (Pride of India), Tabebuia argentea (Yellow Trumpet Tree) and Tabebuia pallida.
Trees and shrubs planted on nature strips provide shade, beauty, privacy and wind protection. They make more attractive streets, assist in the greening of Darwin, attract birds and help filter dust and pollution.
However, remember that the nature strips in the municipality are under Council control and permission must be obtained from the Council before planting or removing any trees on nature strips.
Suburban streets should be planted with species that are hardy, relatively quick growing and long-lived. There are many species that readily meet these criteria, need watering only during their establishment period and thereafter require very little maintenance. No tree or shrub should be planted within 9 metres of a street corner, and you must consider overhead powerlines.