Adding Value…with trees

Landscape Architect, Jai Cheswick, talks about the value of trees to enhance building designs

OK, so you design or build houses and you know nothing about trees except that trees have roots, and roots damage foundations, and trees have leaves, and leaves get into gutters and downpipes.

Not a good start I’ll admit. Your amazing building designs would look even more amazing with the use of correct trees within the landscape. Aesthetically they act as foils or reinforcers of the development’s shape and style and add value financially. Did anyone buy a house in Toorak or Armadale that didn’t have trees around it?

Often landscapers plant, with good intentions, trees they have seen on gardening or renovation shows. Yet without understanding the growth habits and maintenance requirements of trees, the full added value of their use rarely materialises.

Pyrus Calleryana

Commonly used in the larger gardens designed by the likes of Paul Bangay, I cannot say any of the Calleryana varieties (Chanticleer, Bradford or Capital) are suitable for the modern smaller garden. These are big trees, despite the marketing hype, and even the narrowest comes in at 11m high and 3m wide. Often mistakenly used down the narrow side of a block, these trees need some space to really add any aesthetic value to a home.

Corymbia Ficifolia

Dwarf 3m x 3m varieties are quite common-place today, making varieties like ‘Orange Baby’ or ‘Baby Orange’ very useful in small native themed gardens. Councils love them as they attract insects and birds, adding a great opportunity to add native trees where space is tight.


An old favourite, the Crepe Myrtle is a slow growing native of the Indian sub-continent reaching 4m within about 10years. Over the long term, it has fantastic bark colourings, but can look very drab and ‘sticky’ during the winter months, unless part of a larger evergreen planting scheme.

Hymenosporum Flavum

A subtropical native that is becoming more popular in narrow spaces all over Melbourne. I’ve used it successfully in Altona Meadows (Queen of Peace School) and in Brighton (semi-tropical themed landscape). It has a tall slim open habit and can be pruned and shaped to fit a small courtyard. Fantastic creamy yellow flowers will fill a garden with wonderful summer scents, only matched by that of the Chinese Star Jasmine.


These evergreen varieties can often look quite sad after a year or two in the ground. This is commonly due to poor planting technique, water-logging and underfeeding. All the evergreen magnolias can be clipped into tight hedges if required, yet, given some space and TLC, they will form wonderful stocky small trees bearing scented creamy white large flowers.

I could write a lot more about trees and buildings and how a good tree in a garden can really add to a development.

Instead, as a footnote, I will mention that there is also a huge amount of research being done into the value of trees within well-designed gardens in regard to mental health and well-being. As someone that has experienced mental health issues in my earlier years, I can fully appreciate their value around the home and within the wider urban community.