29 Nov 2021

Gardening column: Privacy and beauty — the benefits of mature trees

In The Garden with Jo

Gardening column: Privacy and beauty — the benefits of mature trees

Mature trees. Picture: File photograph

We all seem to be finding solace in the garden whilst in this stay at home period, and still the most popular pages on the Caragh Nurseries website are the Mature Trees and Trees for Screening and Privacy sections.

Let me share with you some of our personal favourites from the nursery and how they can be both beautiful and practical.

Quercus Ilex or Evergreen Oak

Evergreen Oak is always top of our list as it ticks all the boxes; iit is evergreen, gives good cover but is also easy to maintain and is relatively slow growing.

This evergreen screening tree is most commonly grown as a standard tree on a 1.8metre clear trunk with a compact but full head, which is sometimes sculptured and cylindrical but also grown loose and more natural, but still gives excellent screening. It is a member of the oak family, but its botanical name Quercus Ilex gives reference to the fact that its leaves are more akin to the holly or ilex in shape and structure.

This tree can grow large over time, however its slow growth habit ensures that this can be easily managed with a trim every three to five years.

Olea Europea or Olive Tree

We all have a long standing love affair with the olive tree. Here in the nursery, the grey green foliage and loose tendrils remind us of some of our favourite locations in the world.

They are not like any other evergreen tree, they are softer, more gentle but equally as robust and there is no other tree that equals it in maturity and years.

We have trees on the nursery at over 50 years old and we have supplied and delivered a tree to a hotel that was over 1,500 years old - that is not only a piece of art but a slice of history too.

Pinus Sylvestris or Scotch Pine

We have been growing Scots Pine in our fields in Caragh for almost 20 years. Wiith its bluey grey needles and its wonderful flamboyant sculptural shape (when mature) and the orangey bark, this is such an instantly recognisable tree.

As with virtually all conifers, it starts life as a pretty unremarkable cone-shaped tree but as it matures it loses its lower branches and can form the most outstandingly beautiful and creative shapes.

The normal tree can take 40 years (at least) to reach 35ft, when it takes on some of its most beautiful character. It is not only great for screening and wonderful when mature, it is also one of the best trees for absorbing noise pollution.

Magnolia Grandiflora or Evergreen Magnolia

The Evergreen Magnolia is very different in appearance to the usual deciduous magnolias, with its supersized, large glossy leaves with their rusty-coloured downy undersides.

It grows in a real conical natural habit and grows considerably taller too, but what sets it apart are its flowers which appear around July in Ireland, much later than usual. The flowers are few and far between, flowering much better in Dublin and the south coast, but what flowers!

They are huge goblet-like blooms of creamy white, such an impressive sight and scent. These are lovely trees planted as a focal piece, but equally planted in a row of three or five.

Arbutus unedo or Killarney Strawberry Tree

This is commonly called the Killarney Strawberry Tree as it is a native of south-west Ireland but thought to have originally been brought from northern Spain and Portugal.

It is recognised for its lovely dome-shaped evergreen-ness in gardens, especially near the coast where it does well in salt-laden breezes. Like all strawberry trees, it needs good drainage. It is one of those trees that is very slow growing but so worth the wait, with its strawberry-like fruits that can be eaten but don’t taste as nice as they look and its white, bell-shaped flowers which cover the tree in early summer. It's naturally a multi-stemmed tree and will grow to around 20ft tall but that could take over 50 years.

Fagus Sylvatica or Beech Tree

The beech is often thought of as the ‘mother of the forest’, as she casts a protective shade with her leaves. She is also referred to as the ‘queen of the forest’, the partner of the ‘king of the forest’, the oak.

In legends, beech is associated with ancient wisdom. Historically, thin slices of beech formed the first book. These days, the beech is just a rather magnificent tree and one we recommend for both maturity and screening.

Although it is deciduous, it retains its copper foliage of dead leaves, creating a covering so as to assist with screening even in the winter time so it is a win-win for those wanting to create a barrier and still have the beauty of the changing seasonality of one of our native trees. The added bonus of deciduous trees like the beech being lower in price than the evergreen counterparts helps too.

All of these trees are available to plant all year round and can be supplied in mature and larger sizes to create instant impact in any size of garden, and also assist with modern day problems associated with living in close proximity and the lack of privacy that brings with it. We like the benefits of city and town living but not necessarily having next door’s bedroom window looking straight into our kitchen windows, so a cleverly-placed tree can usually be the answer.

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