Christchurch

Serves us right. For years we let our neigh­bours’ trees be the main bar­rier be­tween the two house­holds. Then they moved.

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

Mary Lovell-Smith sug­gests fast­grow­ing trees to grow for pri­vacy

The house was sold and of course the new own­ers cut down all the trees, ex­pos­ing us to them and them to us.

So now it’s a long-over­due re­plant­ing scheme down this, our eastern bound­ary – and I want plants that will grow fast and tall enough to stop them look­ing into our gar­den from their up­stairs bal­cony. Which means the trees have to be about three to four me­tres high ASAP.

We’ve de­cided on a loose shrubbery rather than a hedge to cut down on prun­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the Gui­ness Book of Records, the fastest grow­ing plants are some species of bam­boo, which can grow up to 91cm a day. Tempt­ing, but given bam­boos can grow up to 40m high, I know that other neigh­bours on our hill will ob­ject.

Other fast-grow­ing trees in­clude

Paulow­nia im­pe­ri­alis, which can grow up to 4.5m a year.

In three years, it should reach be­tween 10 and 15 me­tres, with a max­i­mum height at ma­tu­rity of up to 15m. But its spread at that size might be too much for a nar­row sec­tion.

On the plus side, its flow­ers are rather pretty – lit­tle pur­ple-blue trum­pets astride pan­i­cles up to 30cm long.

The el­e­gant and evoca­tive Lom­bardy po­plars ( Pop­u­lus ni­gra ‘Ital­ica’) don’t have flow­ers.

They grow a com­par­a­tively measly 3m a year max, but reach up to 12m in three years, and up to 20m at ma­tu­rity.

I‘ve read that lengths of branch up to 2.5m long can be in­serted about 45cm deep along a trench and will leaf-up in spring, pro­vid­ing, if not im­me­di­ate pri­vacy, then shel­ter for more tender trees.

Pussy­wil­low is a sim­i­lar can­di­date – fast-grow­ing and ridicu­lously easy to grow from cut­tings.

Crepe myr­tle grows about 1.5m a year up to 12m in three, and 20m in full flight.

Al­though of­ten clas­si­fied as a quick grower, Liri­o­den­dron tulip­ifera (the tulip tree) is com­par­i­tively tardy.

With its stun­ning green, yel­low and orange tulip-shaped (of course) flow­ers, it reaches 4m in five years and 30m at ma­tu­rity.

Be­ing par­tial to na­tives, I could grow mako­mako.

Aris­totelia ser­rata, aka wineberry, grows as fast as the tulip tree, that is about 4m in five years, to an ul­ti­mate and much more man­age­able height of 10m.

As an added bonus, birds also love the fruit which fol­low the small and pretty rose-pink flow­ers.

Tarata ( Pit­tospo­rum eu­ge­nioides), aka lemon­wood, is an­other na­tive pos­si­bil­ity.

It is cited as be­ing quick grow­ing, but I have de­cided to first plant tree lucerne (aka tagasaste or

Chamae­cytisus pro­liferus var. pal­men­sis). From the same fam­ily as gorse and broom, this Ca­nary Is­lands na­tive will grow up to 2m in its first year.

It is of­ten used as a nurs­ery species – which is what I will do. Pop it in now and let it get on with do­ing its thing while I take a bit more time mulling over other trees (and slower-grow­ing ones if need be) to plant.

Be­ing a legume, it is a ni­tro­gen fixer, but it also has other en­dear­ing at­tributes. It is a light, airy tree and its pretty white win­ter flow­ers are pop­u­lar with bee­keep­ers in a season when there are few flow­ers on offer. They give way to seed pods, which pro­duce one of the qual­i­ties I like most about it. In the heat, the ex­plod­ing pods pro­vide a sound­track to sum­mer, their snap is our ver­sion of the ci­cadas of the north. It’s also considered ex­cel­lent for fire­wood. The trees can grow up to a per­fect height of 5m, but can get rather scrag­gly as they age.

Never mind, by then my lit­tle se­lec­tion of na­tives en­demic to this part of Banks Penin­sula shall be well on their way to cre­at­ing the tini­est of bird-food forests.

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