Designer trees are those that architects and landscapers like to use to enhance the appearance or enjoyability of the home or business. In some few cases, utility also has its place in the general planning. Trees do many things for a landscape. They provide shade, visual interest, and help bring minerals or even water up from deep in the ground. At the same time, certain trees lend specific properties to the planning process. They might be tall and slender, short and round, or wide and majestic. They might encourage or suppress certain other types of vegetation.
Trees can also affect soil fertility. Some are deep feeders, similar to certain garden vegetables, while others help bring minerals or moisture to their leaves which then drop onto the ground increasing fertility. Some trees need large amounts of water, while others thrive in dry conditions. A top designer tree will do several things, including fill a niche in the general profile of your home or business. When planning a lawn, garden, or orchard area.
- Avocado Tree (persea americana) A versatile evergreen tree that provides shade, blossoms, and delicious fruit. The dense, round leaves ensure that your garden will have something green all year, while the seasonal blooms seem to drip on the tree in season. There are various sizes, depending upon the specific tree purchased. In some cases, full-sized trees are grafted onto dwarf fruit stock so that the trees will bear quickly while keeping the characteristics of the parent tree. At the same time the result will be a short tree that can perhaps even be grown in a container.
- Bottle Tree (brachychiton rupestris) This is the tree that puts “design” in designer tree. If you are looking for a large shade tree that can be transplanted as an mature tree, then this is the one. Although it takes moving equipment to move one of these lovelies with it has reached even half its full height, the result will be well worth the effort. Bottle trees have a unique trunk shape that resembles a classic wine bottle. From the top of this bottle shape sprout wide spreading branches that almost seem to be a bouquet collected in a giant vase. They do bloom, but it is not the appearance of the blooms that is the important thing about them; they are much loved by birds, bees, and animals, some of whom make their homes in the branches of the tree.
- Dragon Tree (dracaena draco) A tree of beauty and of legend, the dragon tree is not only prized for its distinct umbrella shape, but also for its reddish sap. Sometimes called dragon’s blood, the sap has been used as incense, varnish, finish on musical instruments and much more. In legend, dracaena draco sprang up all over the land after Hercules slew the hundred headed beast in “The Golden Apples of the Hesperides.”
- Glauca Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea glauca) An Australian native, reaching back into the ancient times. Walking in our forest of xanthorrhoea glauca is like stepping into prehistory. You can easily imagine giant reptiles stepping between the trunks of these growths that are neither a tree nor a grass. Instead, it is a monocot, a plant that puts up a single stalk from the initial seed. Sprouting grayish green grasslike blades from the ends of its various branches, it almost looks like the famous tree from the Dr. Seuss story.
- Golden Barrel (echinocactus grusonii) While it is not a tree, this chubby cactus is certainly a stand-out feature in any landscape, definitely making it designer material. Perfect for the mid or low range of a bed focusing on low-water vegetation, a golden barrel cactus will certainly attract attention. Its green ribs strongly resemble a pouf. But from each rib grows a row of yellow spines that give it the “golden” appearance. A single bloom will appear that the crown of the pouf in plants that are grown out-of-doors, and from that spot the plant might grow a fruit. Container grown echinocactus grusonii rarely fruit.
- Mango Tree (mangifera indica) A tree that produces an abundance of fruit so succulent and so versatile that legend has it that it was a divine gift. The mango tree is easily grown in tropical or subtropical areas, and it can be a container plant in areas where frost would be a problem. It has wide, glossy leaves and aromatic flowers that are loved by animals, birds and insects. The fruit is so delicious to so many creatures, that if you would like to pick one for your own use, you might need to cover it with a metal or plastic mesh sock!
- Native Australian Finger Lime (citrus australasica) Another Australian native, the finger lime can often be found in as an understory tree in tropical and subtropical parts of Australia. Growing only to six or seven feet tall, they are a good choice for background foliage where a full-sized tree is not desirable. Planner should keep in mind that the little bushes are rather thorny so it is a good idea to keep them away from walking trails or places where fallen thorns could get into the pads of pet or the feet of children. The upside is that, in season, they bear incredibly succulent small limes with pearl shaped pulp inside their thin rinds.
- Olive Tree (olea europaea) So prized all over the world for its fruit and the oil that can be extracted from it that “extending an olive branch” means that you are offering peace. Although the olive fruits must be processed before eating, once that is done they are tasty green or ripe and used in a wide variety of recipes. Olive trees are hardy growers, and will happily “volunteer” in unexpected places. To prevent unwanted growth, owners should be sure to keep the fruit cleaned up from beneath the trees. With that said, they are an interesting landscaping plant, with their twisting trunks and small, dense leaves.
- Pandanus (Pandanus Tectorius) Also known as the screw pine or screw palm for its twisting growth, pandanus is based on the Malaysian word for tree. While it is not truly a palm tree, it can be grown in landscaping situations where a palm tree might be attractive, but where such a water-hungry tree might not be welcome. Pandanus is a hardy grower. While it might need a little extra TLC as a baby, once the tree is established, it can readily withstand periods of drought. Its bracing multi-root system, it can cling to steep hillsides or dig into waterfront areas, managing to cling to earth in spite of high winds. A single pandanus might produce two or three fruits per year. These fruits are slow to mature, but both pulp and seed are edible. It can be propagated from seed or from branches that have rootlets attached.
- Tahitian Lime Tree (citrus x latifolia) A medium sized citrus tree that brings a different meaning to the words “designer tree.” The Tahitian lime is a hybrid that would not exist without human intervention. Although it is sometimes used as a substitute for key limes, its fruits have a milder flavor. The rind is often used to extract the oil which is used in a number of different ways, including as part of cleaning products and to give things a fresh, lemony scent. It has anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial properties. It can be grown in tropical or subtropical areas.