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CRYSTAL GARDENS

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10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Trees eventually grow into their normal sizes at maturity and the straggly seedling you buy may soon be a giant tree tomorrow. And there is no greater nuisance than having a large tree in a small garden. The roots, branches and leaves soon become a powder keg-damaging the roof, blocking the gutter, cracking the pavement, blocking pipes and so forth. Luckily small and medium size trees exist to fit any garden.
 
Site your tree in an open place. Don’t place it adjacent to the house, over water pipes or under power lines. If you do, it won’t have room to stretch its limbs or roots. Dig a hole 2-4 times wide than the root ball and 1 and half times as deep. Add organic matter to the base. Nail the stake off centre. Plant the tree, backfilling with soil and organic matter. Always ensure the level at which the soil was in the planting bag is the same level at planting. If you plant shallowly you risk exposing the roots and your tree will be constantly required watering. If you plant too deep, the buried part of the stem may start rotting under the soil. Firm up the tree and stake if necessary. Water regularly until established.
It is recommended that you plant a tree one half of the maximum tree height away from the house. For tree growing to 5metres plant it at least 2.5 meters a way from the house. This is because tree roots can often grow beyond a tress canopy.
 
 If you have a small garden, here are the trees you should go for;-
 
1. Thika palm (Felicias decipens) (Japanese fern tree)
An all time Kenyan favourite that dots the Nairobi landscape. Loved for its lush green and striking foliage. Its compact shape ensures that it is self limiting and ideal for a small space. The leaves appear fern-like giving it its local name Thika palm. Flowers, white with a pink tint are not a major feature as they are hidden in the dense foliage.  And many homeowners get surprised when told the tree does have flowers!
Planted in a row, Thika palm works as a windbreaks, screens and noise mufflers. A single specimen provides good shade in a lawn. It is slow growing and will rarely reach 10m in urban gardens. Thika palm is propagated from seeds. It occurs naturally in small parts of East African highlands, Sri lanka and Southern India.
               Thika palm                                                                Theveita                                                                  Cape Chestnut
 
2. Theveita Peruviana
Theveita occurs in 8 species of evergreen shrubs and trees from Northern and Southern America and the West Indies. The most common Theveita locally is the peruviana.
The tree has showy funnel shaped flowers with five overlapping petals. The seeds of Theveita are highly toxic. You can raise seedlings from cuttings or seeds. Theveita is trouble free once planted.
 
3. Mimosa  tree (Acacia podalyriiforia),Queensland Silver wattle
 An erect loosely branched evergreen hairy tree growing to 3-5 metres tall. Grown for its attractive grey-like foliage. The rich yellow flower heads are spherical and fragrant. Grow from seeds after soaking in warm water until swollen. It can an also be propagated from semi-ripe cuttings.
Mimosa tree is from the Acacia family found in Kenya, Southern Africa, Polynesia and Australia.
 
4. Cape Chestnut
The Cape chestnut is a magnificent sight to behold when in flower. In full flower the entire canopy turns pink. So enthralled with its beauty was Carl Peter Thunberg  that he shot severally at the branches until a bloom dropped into his hands, famously naming the tree as Calodendrum, “beautiful tree.” It is from the Cape in South Africa.
Cape chestnut is a good ornamental tree used as a specimen plant for its large and string flowers or for shade in the garden. When crushed and boiled the seeds give oils useful for soap making. The bark has medicinal value and is used as a component of skin ointments. Traditionally hunters used to carry the seeds in the belief it would bring them skill and good luck. It is propagated by seeds or cuttings. When grown in cold regions, it does not flower profusely. While in the forest it can grow to 20m, in open cultivation the tree rarely grows beyond 7 m high.
 
5. Tecoma stans-Tecomaria, Yellow bells, Trumpet bush
 This small tree has funnel-shaped bright yellow flowers that draw attention. It can be   an open tree or shrub with several slim trunks. The tecoma is ideal because it can be grown in a container on a balcony as long as it receives full sun. Rarely grows beyond 3 metres. 
Water tecoma freely during early growth.  Sow seeds or make cutting from semi hard branches. 
 
6. Bottle brush (Callistemon)
Bottle brush is endemic to Australia but has been naturalized around the world.  It is dense and multi-trunked with low branching pendulous growth. It is drought tolerant and therefore suitable for the dry areas.
Bottle brush trees are grown for their colourful terminal or auxiliary bottle –brush like   spikes of tiny flowers that can be pink, red, purple, white, green or yellow. Locally though the white, pink and red flower trees are the most common. 
Grow in full sun in well drained neutral to acidic moderately fertile soil.  It is propagated from seeds and semi ripe cuttings.
 
                                                                                                   Tecoma                           Bottle brush                                                      Mimosa
7. Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
So common place that it is hard to imagine this fruit tree is a native of Himalayas and East Asia.  It is grown commercially for its juicy orange-yellow fruit.  It has scented flowers and glossy green leaves.   
row in full sun to 8 m high.
 
8. Bauhinia variegata  (Orchid tree)
This is a spreading tree with rounded rich green leaves with heart shaped bases. It bears light magenta –purple-blue flowers for which the tree is mostly grown. Bauhinia may require restrictive pruning
 
9. Ficus Benjamina 
Long derided as a troublesome tree in parking and pavements, Ficus has been unfairly treated. If you are pressed for space, this tree comes in handy because it is can be customized to fit your space by limiting its growth through shaping. You can turn it into square, spherical or circular forms therefore adding interest to the garden. In addition restrictive pruning can also render it harmless in a small space. Its variant, Ficus Variegata has white splashed leaves that make for a perfect postcard picture!
More importantly Ficus in a pot will snugly fit onto your balcony space or porch. 
 
          Loquat                                                   Bauhinia                                                   Ficus                                                   Italian cypress  in the background
 
10.   Italian Cypress(Cupresses semperiverens ‘stricta”)
Even for the smallest gardens, the Italian cypress will fit. Slow growing, the tree can take the thinnest of spaces taking less than 1 meter wide. If you so wish you can limit its upper growth by chopping off the top at the desired height. Several trees lined together give off a Mediterranean appeal due to its conical or columnar shape. Again agood candidate for the pot!

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