Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Choice

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Farhan Ahmed
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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by Farhan Ahmed » April 3rd, 2013, 8:51 pm

In my humble opinion another worthwhile ornamental cum fruit tree is pomegranate tree....hardy to our climate. Good structure. Small size. Beauuuutiful blooms and last but not the least tasty fruit.

In few days it will be overloaded with Extra double flowers that can compete with any.....
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Buds....
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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by KBW » April 21st, 2013, 10:16 am

Farhan sb, thanks for starting a wonderful thread. It's a very important topic, not just from gardening point of view but IMHO, it's value is much more than that.

I assume when we say ornamental tree, it means a tree which is to be grown for its beauty inside the premises of our houses. It is extremely important in my view to clear this point. Actually, from plantation point of view, I divide the trees in two broad categories. One which are inside the premises of our house (where a controlled environment can be given and good / bad effects of the tree relate to the owner of the house only, in most cases) and second, outside the house. The second type can be further subdivided into further two categories, ie, inside cities (where a limited controlled environment can be provided) and second in the wilderness where nature takes care of them.

Therefore, I assume the debate should revolve around the trees which are to be grown inside our houses. However.......

One very important characteristic which needs to be considered while planting trees is their "permanency". Unlike bulbs, annuals, perennials etc which have a short life, trees would be there for a long time, sometimes for centuries. Trees have profound impact on our ecosystem, much greater than what many of us imagine. Due to their good or bad effects on environment, they have the power to change our life style and live pattern, over a period of time and therefore have to be taken very seriously. This would mean that a comprehensive research / debate needs to be undertaken before we decide to plant trees, specially so if the tree to be planted is an outsider ie, not a native specie. Therefore, there are aspects far bigger than beauty and appearance which IMHO need to be considered.

If the debate is restricted to trees which are to be planted inside the houses only, than it's a much simpler debate. However, the problem is that we tend to plant similar trees elsewhere in the cities / wilderness and that is where the problem comes.

Every tree comes with a package of good / bad, beneficial / harmful traits and having a thorough understanding of these traits is essential. When I say beneficial / harmful, it is related to the environment in that particular area. A very beneficial tree for a particular area may prove to be harmful in a different area. Therefore, just as we can't set a lion free on the city roads because it is one of the most majestic animals, we also can't plant every type of tree one the sole reason that it looks beautiful to our eyes. Moreover, we just can't plant all those types of trees which can grow well in our environment without considering the effect that they will have on our ecosystem in the long run. And if we do that, we and also our generations might suffer through the slow (and mostly invisible) effects. More on this later. :)

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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by KBW » April 21st, 2013, 11:38 am

In order to generate the debate further, I will take lead from the points already raised by you in the first post. The purpose is absolutely not to cirticise you point of view but to bring out certain points which will not be otherwise understood clearly and to continue debate in the same sequence that you have started. This is perhaps one of the best topics on this forum and I delayed giving comments because I thought I will need lot of time to write on this vital subject. The point of view given is my personal point of view which of course is subject to an open debate :)
farhan137 wrote:Generally when we are selecting Trees for our gardens we only consider their appearance/beauty and nothing else which can result in difficulties later.
Absolutely agreed. There are much bigger factors to be considered than just beauty and appearance.
farhan137 wrote: Standards

Height and spread
This is probably the most important factor. Although dependent on grower’s choice, too big or too small mature size can be an issue. Keep in mind the ultimate height and spread of your desired tree in respect with space available and how much area you want to give to the tree. Big tree planted close to walls/buildings can lead to problem.
Correct. The ultimate spread of the tree must be considered, especially when planting inside the houses where the space is limited. In wilderness / open areas however, this aspect is not that important.
farhan137 wrote:Growth rate
Growth rate is also very important. It should reasonably be medium to fast. or the tree will acquire its full form after your life time maybe....:-)
I think we need to debate this point. Growth rate comes with its pros and cons. When we say a tree has a faster growth rate, it actually means that the tree has the ability to feed faster and it's body mechanism is designed to utilise those nutrients at a corresponding pace, hence a faster growth. At the same time, it would also mean that the soil where such a tree is feeding will quickly be devoid of nutrients. This is create a competition for food and being the big boy in the area, a fast growing tree will make it difficult for smaller plants to grow freely. Such a behaviour can be tolerated in rain forests or tropical areas where it rains very frequently, temperature is constant and towards higher side which makes the decomposition of fallen leaves quick, so there is a quick replenishment of nutrients. Many of the smaller plants are epiphytes which are not feeding from ground rather need space to hang on which is provided by these fast growing large trees, foliage plants capable of feeding from leaves are more than the flowering plants which need heavy diets during flowering period etc etc. So it fits well in that bigger picture and a slow growing tree won't work there, but in our areas...... we have to research it well before planting a fast growing tree.

A slow growing tree will not exhaust the soil quickly and will develop a much better relationship with the environment and the inhabitants. Smaller plants will get their share of soil nutrients and so on...

Just analyse that how many fast growing trees are native Pakistani trees. Hardly any. The reason is that our climate and environment is not suitable for fast growing trees, otherwise they would be there in the same number as found in South India, Fare East and other tropical areas. Nature is the best guide........ and we humans need to learn a lot from it. :)

BTW, in routine I come acorss such cases in and around the houses where the inhabitants have planted trees like Eucalyptus and Alestonia and complain that nothing grows in their lawn unless they use heavy chemical fertilizers. Alestonia, rated very high as an ornmental tree and often planted inside the large houses, take away most of the nutrients that you feed. Plus, have you ever noticed that hardly any birds permanantly live on an Alestonia tree :| :roll:

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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by KBW » April 21st, 2013, 12:14 pm

farhan137 wrote:Beauty
Beauty of tree comprises of three aspects:-
1) Good(your choice) foliage
2) Good(your choice) Flowers
3) Handsome structure
If your tree has nice blooms but otherwise ordinary foliage you will have to live with shabby looking tree for most part of the year as mostly flowering period of trees is couple of months. If your selected tree is otherwise beautiful but forms an uneven, lanky or dropping structure, it will be a big turn off. Selection of tree based on color of foliage, fall color, flower appearance/fragrance are one of the key selection criteria.
Correct, however, choice will vary from person to person. My take on this is that first a tree should fit in the larger picture, ie, it's suitability for the area in the long run and once that condition is met, then the other aspects are worth considering. However, if one intends planting just one odd tree in the house and is willing to take care of its requirements than it's another matter.
farhan137 wrote:Beautiful canopy
This is one of the most sort after feature of ornamental trees. Trees which form round symmetrical canopies are good looking, neat, shade rendering etc
This, IMV, will depend on requirement of the landscape. Everywhere we may not need a tree with round symmetrical canopy. At places, a tall selender looking tree with scattered leaves might suite better. Space would be another issue. Large canopies would mean larger areas and vice versa. Moreover, one may not be looking for shade everwhere and at places, the landscaping requirement might be to have a tree that provides deppled / partial shade so that smaller plants that need partial sunlight can be grown under it.
farhan137 wrote:Straight trunk
Ideal trees beside canopy must have a trunk which is stable, solid looking and as straight as possible. Imagine a beautiful tree with zig zag trunk loitering everywhere. This aspect can be controlled to some extent by training the trunk and proper pruning technique.
Again, it will depend on landscaping requirement as well as personal choice. At a certain place, a straight trunk symmetrical tree might look out of place and an irregular shape tree with kind of a zig zag stem might look very "artistic", so to say. :)
farhan137 wrote:Season of interest
Give due thought to season of interest when selecting tree. You want it flowering in spring or want to have fall color or good foliage throughout the year etc.
Agreed. These are important considerations which should be researched, after a research has been done to ascertain suitibility of a tree in the bigger picture.
farhan137 wrote:Evergreen or deciduous
Both types of trees have their advantages. Evergreen would mean leaves throughout but will not provide fall color on the other hand deciduous will be naked bark for at least 4 months of the year and enormous amount of litter as well.
Correct. But we must consider that our weather pattern suits decidious trees more. One, they throw in lot of decomposable material (leaves) towards the soil during a dormant period which replenishes nutrients in the area (provided we have not cleaned the area). If we remove the fallen leaves than we must understand that we have stopped a natural cycle and now we have to feed the soil artifically to make good the deficiency created. Second, decidious trees do not stop sunlight during winters whereas evergreen trees become a curse during winters. For areas like Karachi, Gwader etc, evergreen trees might be more suitable whereas for areas where we have hot summers and cool winters, decidious trees might be more suitable.

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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by KBW » April 21st, 2013, 12:52 pm

farhan137 wrote:Maintenance
Following maintenance aspects are very important:-
1) It should be reasonably disease resistant.
2) Does it require regular pruning/ training, thereby increasing work load.
3) Tree should be the cause of minimum litter in terms of fallen leaves, bark and fruit. Or you would end up sweeping your lawn/beds every other day.
4) Some trees make undesirable fruit, which is not only cause of litter but also excessive bird/animal activity.
5) Ideally tree should not be the favorite tree for roosting/nesting by birds.
6) Seed germination is another major issue. Some trees have excellent germination rates. As I experienced with melia azedarach, every seed/berry that drop is sprouted if water is available. This can cause weeding issues in your borders/lawn. If unchecked you will have the same tree everywhere in your garden…..LOL
7) Root and basal suckering. This is very important aspect. Some trees send roots traveling far away and that too horizontally. This can not only damage your landscape/borders but also leech nutrients available to your other plants. Meaning by nothing left for your flowers to thrive on.
Comments on points follow the same sequence as given in the quote above...
1) Correct. As a general rule, native plants have far more adaptability to local diseases as compared to alien species hence less diseases or a well known disease for which a simple, cheap and time tested cure already exists.

2) Yes, this aspect may be considered but most trees inside a home would need periodic pruning anyway. The ability to train a particular tree in a certain shape might turnout to be a big advantage in certain cases if one knows how to do it.

3) It again will differ from person to person and should not, IMHO, be termed as a disadvantage. Many people consider fall leaves (which might be very colour ful) as very 'natural' and 'artistic' looking and do not remove them per se. When the colour is gone, they are swept and utilised for making compost or simply dumped inside the flower beds / under the trees where they will decompose in due course or used as a mulch during winters. Than there are people who want to see a lawn clean of all such things all the time. For such people, evergreen non-fruit bearing trees are a better choice.

4 & 5)It again would differ from person to person. Someone might love to have a tree which invites lot of birds. He might be fond of having an early breakfast sitting in his lawn, listening to the sound of birds singing and watching them flying from one tree to the other, taking a sip of coffee inbetween :mrgreen: . I personally never plant Alestonia because it sort of 'dispells' birds.

6) Unwanted seed germination can become a serious problem if a tree located inside a house is neglected for a long time. If regular maintenance is done, it won't be much of an issue. In nature however, this problem would not occur as nature has it's own system of taking care of such problems. Most of the seeds / seedlings will be eaten by the insects, birds and animal, many would not fall into a place suited for germination etc etc.

7)Yes, this is a very important aspect. This problem is normally akin to fast growning trees. Again, if due care has been taken to see the suitability of the tree in the bigger picture, this problem will seldom occur.

farhan137 wrote:Tree Safety
Tree should be strong enough to support itself and its branches. Otherwise adverse weather will either uproot your tree wasting years of effort or branches flying here and there in high winds causing damage to surrounding area
If a tree is healthy and has been planted at a correct located, it will normally take care of itself without our support.
farhan137 wrote:Climatic Adaptation
Last but not the least, Very very important consideration. If you have selected a specie which is not suitable to your climate, its bound to fail. Select trees which suit your terrain/climate well so that its flourishes well.
Keep in mind what exposure (Sun-Wind-Temperature) you have at your selected site, and then select the tree. Also keep in mind hardiness zone if you are living in colder areas. Heat/cold burns, humidity requirements, rainfall/water requirement, soil requirement for that specific tree all must be accounted for. For instance tropical trees can’t survive cold areas in general, trees which require chilling period will fail in warmer areas and so on.
Correct and must always be considered. However, this must also be kept in mind that many trees may be very desirable from hardiness / survival rate point of view but may not suite our environment due to certain other reason. IMHO therefore, checking the suitability of a tree from growth point of view alone might not be not enough.


Thanks for a patient reading gentlemen. If I have bored some or many of you through this lengthy argument than my apologies in advance. But I considered this aspect important enough to be debated and even sacrified an outing with the family on a weekend for composing this write up. The punch line is that I consider tree plantation a collective responsibilty as it will have consequences, good / bad / neautral not only for us, but for our children and also their children. Such a thing should obviously deserve due deliberation from all of us.

Thanks and regards

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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by Farhan Ahmed » April 21st, 2013, 1:11 pm

Thankyou sir for nice deliberation and especially considering our environmental factors......

Your debate would further instigate the througt process of the readers which is the main aim of the thread. THINK BEFORE PLANTING A TREE....

Different aspects that i have discussed are generally points accepted or sought after by masses. Exception will always be there dependent on people's choice and other landscape requirement......of course which can not be discussed as fundamental principles of selection.

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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by KBW » April 21st, 2013, 3:19 pm

farhan137 wrote:Different aspects that i have discussed are generally points accepted or sought after by masses. Exception will always be there dependent on people's choice and other landscape requirement......of course which can not be discussed as fundamental principles of selection.
Farhan bhai, it's good that you have brought up this point. I agree with all you have said if we are talking about planting one odd tree inside a person's house. In that case, it is that person who will be the beneficiary / sufferer. Even if it happens to be a bad choice, one odd tree will not affect the environment per se though it will cause personal discomfort / problems to the planter in the long run.

However, when we are talking about planting a large number of trees in the community areas, road sides, parks even wilderness etc, we have to be very careful and detail homework / research must be undertaken before starting the project.

I will quote one example which I have already shared with a forum member privately. Around 13 years back I came to know of an area which few decades back was known to be a very green jungle. It was still a good jungle environment but quite a few locals were now working outside because there were not enough earning opportunities in the area. There were disputes on petty issues and even criminal activities were on the rise. When the issue was discussed with few village elders they informed that there used to be good agriculture and animal raising in the area but no more because many of the springs have dried up and they don't have enough water. Moreover, though the jungle is still green, there is somehow not enough fodder for the animals. Since there is not enough to do so either a person has to migrate elsewhere or be powerful enough to get hold of the better lands which are still productive. This has given rise to inter-family disputes and created a situation of "survival of the fittest".

On further investigation it was revealed that few decades back, locals used to cut lot of trees which thinned out the jungle. Forest Dept (of course in good spirit) decided to help the locals and provided thousands of Eucalyptus saplings to the locals, saying that this is an excellent tree with outstanding growth and survival rate. Thousands of Eucalyptus saplings were therefore planted. As it was easier to water the saplings near the springs / nullahs so many of them were planted just close to the waterways / springs. Over the years, they survived well and grew up in to tall trees. Though there were still rains but somehow, the springs dried out. Actually, Eucalyptus tree has enormous ability to store water. One fully grown tree can consume over hundred liters of water per day if available. Due to its fast growth, its roots spread over a large area and consume bulk of the nutrients. The rain pattern also got a bit disturbed and therefore less water would seep in the ground to recharge the springs. Out of that a major portion will be consumed by eucalyptus through its long roots which were everywhere. With the passage of time, due to insufficient recharging, many springs dried out.

Moreover, eucalyptus leaves contain "essential oil" which is extensively used in medicines and is in fact a insect repellent in its natural form (when I go hunting / fishing, I take a few eucalyptus leaves and rub them on my neck, face, hands and other exposed parts to keep the mosquitos and other insects at a distance :) ). Reduction of insects in the area affected pollination activity in smaller plants. With less nutrients available in the soil and less pollination activity, the propagation rate was seriously effected and plant count in the area dwindled. With not enough grasses and small plants in the area, animals could not be fed properly through the jungle. The slow growing native trees, which included numerous wild fruit trees, found it hard to compete with fast growing eucalyptus. Hence over a few decades, there was an overall decrease in the productive activities which encouraged migration, feuds, etc etc.

Of course all this did not happen due to eucalyptus alone; there were many other contributing factors which played their part. However, eucalyptus did have role in degrading the environment which affected the socio-economic strata of the area.

Luckily, better sense prevailed, most of the eucalyptus trees were cut, their stems removed (which was a huge task) and in their place, original native trees of the area (blue pine, Kachnar, Lasoora, Harar, shisham, maple etc) were replanted in big numbers and now, the area is in a much better shape. Forest dept rendered lot of help to the locals and provided most of the saplings free of cost (bulk of which consisted of blue pine and kachnar, the dominant tree of area.) Out of some 40,000 saplings planted, around 13000 survived and are still doing well. The ecosystem has been restored to an extent and in a decade or so, would be revived, hopefully. This is a true story but it may not be desirable to reveal further details. However, we can learn relevant lesson from it if we want to....

All those who did this did not do it purposefully to destroy the ecosystem. In fact they did it in good spirit to revive a jungle which was on a decline. There intentions are not to be doubted as they did something which was very very desirable, from ecological as well as religious point of view. However, there knowledge and understanding of the whole issue was very very questionable which caused lot of environmental degradation in the coming decades. Eucalyptus is an outstanding tree for areas with high water table and even saline areas but for a normal area, it's a killer. But Eucalyptus is not at fault here. It did what nature has designed it to do. It is our fault that we planted it in the wrong area.

That is the reason I feel that selecting a tree (for mass plantation) is a job involving great responsibility and should never be undertaken without proper research. :)

On personal level, I always prefer local trees or trees which are very well settled in our environment and their attributes are well known to us. In large size trees, Neem, Amaltaas are my favourite. In smaller trees, kachnar, dhak, largerstromia and few others are incomparable. And than there are many local fruit trees which are very useful....

regards

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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by Farhan Ahmed » April 21st, 2013, 4:08 pm

Eucalyptus is a forest/plantation/timber tree not likely to be used as ornamental tree......

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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by KBW » April 21st, 2013, 7:42 pm

oh yes... seem to have missed the whole point. Back to oranmental trees then :)

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Re: Ornamental Tree Debate! Selection criterion and Your Cho

Post by isaeed » September 17th, 2013, 12:13 pm

My dhak sapling is growing at a fast rate.From 1ft in height it has grown to over 6 ft in two months.Let us see whether it dies out during winter as has been your experience.
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