Plants I love

Moving trees

What to do with mature trees in the wrong spot? It’s a question with currency as National Tree Day has people all over the country planting baby trees, and another of Anzac Parade’s mature Moreton Bay figs becomes mulch. Mouran Maait owns Alpine Treemovals, a company that transplants mature trees around Sydney. If he had his way mature trees would always be considered for their transplant potential well before they were stuffed into a chipper.

Alpine Treemovals, pic Robin Powell (2)

This is the rescue section of Alpine Treemovals Nursery at Glenorie; there’s also a large section of nursery-grown trees.

Maait’s desire to give new life to old trees doesn’t always work out. Sometimes access is impossible or the tree is unhealthy or has no re-use potential. And sometimes it’s a phoenix palm, also called Canary Island date palm, Phoenix canariensis. Maait has black-banned dealing with any more of these, partly for health and safety reasons (those spiky fronds and all that rat and bird excrement captured in the crown) but also because people just don’t want them anymore. A highly fashionable choice in the late 19th and early 20th century, the date palm has been overtaken. New to the top of the desirable list, according to Alpine’s buyers, are banksias, tuckeroos, (Cupaniopsis anacarioides, an east-coast rainforest tree) and magnolias, both deciduous types and evergreens, especially Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’.

Alpine Treemovals, pic Robin Powell

If I had room I’d love to find a home for that pair of hoop pines Mouran is walking past. Gorgeous metallic trunks.

Some trees can’t be saved; others are destroyed through thoughtlessness. “They just need to give me some notice,” pleads Maait about developers, builders, architects or owners who don’t think about moving trees until the very last minute. “I can’t come and collect a tree if you ring me today, but give me enough time and I can see what can be done.” In his ideal world councils would require an assessment of trees on a property as part of a development approval process.

Alpine Treemovals, pic Robin Powell (1)

It was hard to get the right camera angle, but can you see how the age of form of this weeping Japanese maple gives it a $20,000 price tag.

The current jewel of rescued trees awaiting a new home in Alpine Treemovals’ Glenorie nursery is a 60-year-old weeping Japanese maple from a Waitara property. The call from the property owner came in November – spring – the worst time to move a deciduous tree. The best time to transplant trees in in winter when they are dormant; not in spring with growth energy pulsing through the plant. To reduce the risk, Maait put off the collection until an overcast cool day to lower transpiration. His team had the maple out of the ground and into a bag at the nursery in under five hours. It barely dropped a leaf and has been living happily in its big black bag at the nursery for nearly eight years, awaiting a buyer who appreciates it age and beautiful form enough to part wiht around around $20,000 plus installation costs to have it in their garden.

Yulan magnolia

Yulan magnolia, rescued from TAFE. Also seen at the top of this post.

Less pricey is a mature Yulan magnolia rescued from Ryde TAFE. Around 5m tall, and in bloom with creamy-white cupped flowers, it was drawing the eye of a woman who’d come shopping for her new garden when I visited the nursery. She was tossing up between the Yulan magnolia and a mature, pink-flowered Magnolia soulangeana in the next row. Smaller budgets are also catered to, and $600 will get you a new tree; the saved-in the-nick–of-time backstory comes free.

It’s time to

Book now
It’s still a long way off, but put the Ballarat Garden Show, 13-15 November in your diary. See five private gardens, the Archibald Prize at the fabulous Art Gallery of Ballarat and David Glenn’s inspirational Lambley, 20 minutes away.

See flowers up close
Florilegium: the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney celebrating 200 years tells the 200year history of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney through 87 plants, illustrated by 64 botanical artists. An exhibition of the artworks featured in the book, called The Florilegium, Sydney’s Painted Garden opens today at the Sydney Museum, cnr Bridge and Phillip Streets, Sydney, July 30 to October 30.

Grow mushrooms
Mr Fothergills has released kits growing golden and pearl oyster mushrooms. Soak the kit overnight, spray daily and expect to be eating your own mushrooms in two weeks. $25, available at Bunnings and independent garden centres.

Aerate the lawn
Mossy areas develop in lawn that is compacted. More effective than inviting stiletto-wearing friends to cocktails is to use a garden fork to pierce the soil. Sprinkle over a little garden lime to reduce soil acidity.



One thought on “Moving trees

  1. James deV says:

    Great post Robin.
    Such a caring and sensible thing to do.
    The tree moving that is…
    I’m surprised there aren’t more businesses and architects doing this.

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