Today’s blog is the second instalment of Trees for small gardens and constricted area’s

In January this year we posted a blog discussing trees for small gardens and constricted areas. This topic landed up being to our surprise, extremely popular and because of requests we have decided to create a Chapter 2 to this blog and continue inspiring you, our readers with ideas for the selection of your perfect petite and non-aggressive trees. Without further ado we begin. Below is your extensive list:

Apodytes dimidiata – Wild Pear/Birds eye (4-5m H gardens  x 4 -5m W)

This indigenous evergreen large shrub or small tree forms a compacted rounded crown, with glossy dark green leathery leaves and a beautiful pale grey and smooth bark. This tree produces masses of white, very fragrant sprays of blooms in loose bunches, which appear in summer and attract pollinators. This tree is also very attractive when in fruit with black fleshy berries which have a bright red juicy heel or bottom. These heels make the fruits look like little kidneys. The fruits are a favourite of our feathery friends and the tree is a buzz with insect and bird activity. This tree is perfect for the small garden and constricted areas as the fruit is not very messy and the root system is non-aggressive so safe to plant near paving buildings, near pools etc. This tree makes a fantastic screen and if you want to grow it as a tree, sometimes requires some pruning and encouragement. This is a moderately fast growing specimen but for the first year after planting can be quite slow. It can tolerate a certain amount of coastal beating, likes a sunny position, a fertile soil so make sure to plant correctly with lots of compost and is actually very drought tolerant, but would appreciate being watered well when young.

Bolusanthus speciosus – Tree Wisteria (5m H x 4-5m W)

This indigenous (slightly deciduous at certain time of the year) neat and tidy tree has a rounded crown, sports glossy foliage and has an unusual rough dark brown to black bark with many grooves and furrows.  It is often a multi stemmed tree and will more than likely require pruning and stems to be cut if you would like a single stemmed tree. It is truly one of the most spectacular South African trees and looks like a tossup between a Jacaranda and Wisteria. In spring and early summer this tree is showered with drooping sprays of sweet pea like mauve flowers, which are scented and attract butterflies. Brown fruit pods follow after flowering. Although this tree is not common in the Western Cape it can definitely do well here but would not recommend it for a coastal garden. This tree likes growing in a well-drained sandy soil but still appreciates composting and prefers a sunny position. This tree is perfect for the small garden, with non-aggressive roots and being extremely decorative makes and incredible container plant which will be a serious talking point. This is a fairly fast growing tree on the condition that it is being looked after. Brace yourself though as this can be a toughie to find but is well worth the search.

Heteropyxis natalensis – Lavender tree (5-6m x 5m).

This indigenous deciduous tree is a natural beauty and is not flashy in flowering or fruiting but is rather attractive in shape, foliage and a gorgeous bark as well as incredible scent. This tree has a neat attractive crown and slightly drooping glossy foliage. These leaves smell strongly of lavender when crushed and turn first yellow then a beautiful red before falling in autumn. The scent of the crushed leaves is actually used to make perfumes and medicinal teas. The creamy tan trunks are crooked, sometimes fluted and have a lovely flaky mottled bark. The flowers are tiny, yellow and non- flashy but are scented and attract masses of beetles, bees and butterflies. This insect activity is then thoroughly enjoyed by insectivorous birds. This tree prefers a sunny spot and needs a fertile, composted well drained soil as well as regular watering. Be patient though as this tree is classified as fairly slow growing. This is not a coastal tree so plant in more protected gardens and spots. Again a gem which can be difficult to find, but well worth trying to find.

Kiggelaria africana – Wild Peach (8m H x 8m width, sometimes bigger).

This indigenous tree is well shaped but low branching, so if you want a natural tree shape the pruning of lower branches would be recommended from a young age. If not let it grow naturally where it forms a fantastic screening and windbreaker plant. It has a smooth grey bark, which roughens with age and glossy green tough foliage, which resembles that of a peach tree. This is not a small tree and is rather considered to be medium sized but because of it having a non- invasive root system can be planted in a small garden. Keep in mind though that it has a wide spread so must be given enough space to do so, but this also lends itself to creating shade. Tiny bell shaped, yellow-green flowers are born in clusters, but it must be noted that male and female flowers are formed on separate trees and in order to produce fruits one needs both sexes and a certain balance of them which is difficult to get right, so you may not experience fruiting. If you do experience fruiting then these are knobbly-capsules which split open revealing black fruits which are covered in an orange red coat. These capsules will split wide open resembling almost a yellow star, with the red coated seeds attached (Really quite sweet). These fruits attract many different birds. Something to keep in mind though about this tree is that at a certain short period of the year this tree will be stripped of most leaves by the Acraea horta butterfly caterpillar BUT keep in mind that these caterpillars will attract many birds which eat them, and tree fully recuperates quickly. This is not a tree for the squeamish but rather for the true nature lover. This tree is widespread through South Africa and Africa, and is very tolerant of tough coastal conditions. This tree does not require much maintenance and enjoys moderate watering and an average soil which has been composted.

Pittosporum viridiflorum – Cheesewood (4-6m x 4m, height and width can vary)

This large shrub or small tree has a neat, well-shaped nature with dark green, thick, leathery, glossy foliage and a dark grey bark which is smooth when young and rough with age and often has horizontal markings. The bark is said to have a slight liquorish scent. Clusters of greenish, white fragrant blooms are produced in tight clusters in summer. The fragrance is prevalent at night. These flowers are followed by capsules which split open to reveal many red sticky juicy seeds, which attract masses of different kinds of birds. These berries are actually very attractive and create quite a show. Again this tree has non-aggressive roots making it great for small gardens and containers, tight spots etc.  It is a fast growing variety. This tree needs a well-drained soil which doesn’t have to be great but must have some compost added. Watering required is moderate to light, and this tree is actually very hardy. This tree can be grown in full sun and semi-shade. This tree can grow in many different conditions, including coastal.

Rhus/Searsia lancea & pendulina – Karee and white karee (6-7m H x 6m W)

The crown of these two evergreen trees is of a drooping slightly willow like habit, and this tree has drooping olive green foliage. This crown is dense and therefore makes a fantastic shade tree. The trunk of the Karee is black-brown and rough and contorted whereas the trunk of the White Karee is smooth and a pale grey- brown colour. These trees produce masses of sprays of greenish yellowish flowers which are scented and attract butterflies. The flowers are followed by reddish –brownish fruits which are loved by birds. The fruits are also edible to humans and have been used to make beers and honey beers. These are commonly available and used a lot as park, school, complex trees as well as in small gardens because of their lovely shape, being small and having non-aggressive roots. These tree is fast growing, very hardy and drought tolerant. The Karee is suited to very dry areas and the White Karee can actually be used along river banks and wet areas just like a willow would be.

There are many more trees which are appropriate for small gardens and constricted areas and here is a brief description of some of them.

Rothmania capensis or Wild Gardenia has masses of headily scented, creamy-white bell shaped flowers which resemble Gardenia’s. There is also a Rothmania globosa which is just as attractive. Psychotria capenis or Black Bird berry is a large shrub, which can sometimes grow into a small tree if trained and encouraged. This plant gets clusters of bright yellow flowers which are followed by bunches of berries which ripen from yellow to red to black and aptly named so, attract birds. This shrub is like a restaurant for birds. Buddleja auriculata, saligna & salvifolia are all large shrubs which can be trained into small trees and are hardy and floral. My favourite being salvifolia. Dodonea angustifolia or Dune Olive is a large shrub or small tree (Will require pruning and training), which is extremely appropriate for very tough coastal conditions.

Some trees which are commonly miss-planted in small gardens and constricted areas and become problematic are Acacia xanthophloe (Fever tree), Caesalpinia ferrea (Leopard tree), Poplus species (Poplars) and different Ficus species. These are all very large trees and have very invasive shallow root systems. A tree which is not that large but has an aggressive root system and is often miss-planted is the Olea europea africana. This should not be planted too close to structures etc.

In conclusion, once again we hope that you have found this blog interesting and useful in making decisions on choosing the right tree, which will only give you happiness and joy. Remember do your homework and make a wise, long thought of decision. If you have any queries please feel free to email me on

Blog written by

Jessica Ruger.

Images of trees sourced from the following websites with thanks:

Apodytes –

Bolusanthus –

Heteropyxis –

Kiggelaria –

Pittosporum –[gallery2408]/1[gallery2408]/2

Searsia lancea –

Searsia pendulina –

Rothmania globosa –

Buddleja –

Acacia –

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