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Better shade than ever

They stand tain avenues, driveways and gardens in the UAE. They provide visual relief from the skyscrapers everywhere. This summer, let colours grow on trees suited for dry desert regions.

  • Drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera). Image Credit:
  • Gulmohar (Delonix regia). Image Credit:
  • Neem (Azadirachta indica). Image Credit:
  • Scarlet Cordia (Cordia sebestena). Image Credit:
  • Yellow Poinciana (Peltophorum pterocarpum). Image Credit:

This summer, let colours grow on trees specially suited for dry desert regions.

They stand tain avenues, driveways and gardens in the UAE. Surrounded by a concrete jungle, they provide visual relief from the skyscrapers everywhere. Their colourful presence breaks the monotony of a barren landscape.

Trees add height and give a sense of permanence to any landscape. They absorb noise, purify and filter the air, provide shade and enhance the kerb appeal of your property. From attracting birds to acting as screens for privacy, trees serve aesthetic and practical purposes.

However, low rainfall, intense heat and sandy soil bereft of organic nutrients are some factors that make growing trees challenging in the UAE. Except for a handful of indigenous species, most trees grown in the UAE have been introduced from neighbouring subtropical countries. Many of these alien trees, especially the exotic palms, are not in harmony with the hot and arid conditions of desert — they survive, but do not thrive. Most exotic trees need a lot of water and upkeep to look attractive.

That is why it is crucial to select trees adapted to endure the hot, dry, sandy and salty conditions.

The following ornamental trees are suitable for a variety of landscapes:

Gulmohar (Delonix regia syn. Poinciana regia):

As a freestanding specimen tree, the gulmohar in fubloom has no peers for sheer brilliance. Each summer, this tree produces vivid splashes of flame-red flowers. It is aptly named ‘flamboyant tree' for its profusion of gaudy, scarlet-orange flowers.

Apart from being one of the most spectacular ornamental trees, gulmohar with its umbrella-like canopy of feathery leaves also provides excellent shade. Unlike its tropical cousins, the gulmohar cultivars grown in the UAE have modest heights, but are spread widely — their fern-like lacy leaves provide dappled shade,

under which, a variety of annuals and perennials can grow.
Gulmohar grows wein a subtropical climate, but can tolerate drought and salty conditions as long as it is planted in sunny areas. The cultivars grown in the UAE are tolerant of a variety of soils and conditions.

The tree needs to be watered well, particularly when it is newly planted, but the soil must remain wedrained.

This outstanding tree is mainly used in parking lots and avenues to add a touch of drama to the landscape.

It is also used in home gardens as an eye-catching accent. However, gulmohar has a tendency to drop leaves, flowers and pods throughout the year and must not be planted near swimming pools or ponds. Its tiny leaflets can clog pool filters and drains.

Indian Laburnum (Cassia fistula):

With its huge, showy sprays of rich, yellow blossoms, Cassia is decidedly a star performer that can light up any dull corner of the garden.

The fruits are long, dark-brown cylindrical pipes that continue to hang from the branches long after the flowering is over. Each pod contains a large number of shiny seeds that are poisonous. The compound leaves are coarsely pinnate with large leaflets.

Ideal as a specimen tree in a sunny corner of the garden, Cassia requires occasional pruning to develop a symmetrical crown. Staking will prevent the drooping branches from falling over. A native of Southeast Asia, this subtropical deciduous tree is tolerant to drought and salinity. Easily propagated from seeds, Cassia needs moist but well-drained soil and fusun to bloom best.

Yellow Poinciana (Peltophorum pterocarpum):

Yellow poinciana is a wonderful shade or specimen tree for large landscapes. This fast-growing tree with a large canopy of dense foliage is not meant for smagardens with confined spaces. It is usually grown in open spaces, large lawns or avenues for creating a dappled shade. The wide-spreading branches need periodic pruning to develop a uniform, umbrella-like crown.

Yellow poinciana grows best in fusun on any moist, but well-drained soil. In summer, the entire tree's canopy gets covered in a blanket of yellow flowers that appear in panicles, clustered with rusty balls. The fragrant flowers too have rusty marks on the crinkled, yellow petals.

Frangipani (Plumeria alba):

One of the most popular garden trees, frangipani is cherished for its ornamental flowers. It is a low-spreading tree, bearing clusters of creamy-white flowers with a yellow throat. Red frangipani (Plumeria rubra) has petals tinged in red tones. The waxy petals are spirally arranged and have a distinct smell.

Frangipani continues blooming even when a mature tree is uprooted and replanted in a new location. It is also easily propagated through cuttings. The cuttings should be allowed to dry out for several days before planting. Fairly drought-and salt-tolerant, this tree wigrow quickly in fusun on a variety of well-drained soils. Frangipani works weas a container tree in patios, decks and terraces. It can also be grown as a freestanding specimen tree on sidewalks and in lawns.

Neem (Azadirachta indica, syn. Melia azadirachta, Margosa)
This evergreen tree has become popular as a shade tree in landscaping because of its medicinal properties.

Neem is regarded as a living pharmacy — aparts of this tree, from roots, stems and leaves, to flowers and fruits, have been prized for centuries for their medicinal or ecological value. But its most important trait is its ability to thrive in drought-prone, sandy soils. Its scythe-shaped, serrated leaves give out more oxygen than other trees. Every summer, the tree produces a profusion of fragrant, tiny, star-like flowers.

Scarlet Cordia (Cordia sebestena):

This small evergreen tree that almost looks like a large shrub is ideal for smagardens. Scarlet cordia produces large clusters of bell-shaped orange flowers throughout the year. The tree makes a striking accent plant with its dense canopy of dark-green, oval leaves studded with orange-red blooms.
Cordia thrives in sunny corners and is drought tolerant, but it does better with regular watering.

Jasmine tree (Millingtonia hortensis)

This fast-growing tree has gained popularity among UAE gardeners because of its hanging masses of silver-white blossoms that give off a delightful fragrance at night.

Taand straight with few branches, the tree is grown more for its fragrance and ornamental value than for shade. The tree is easily propagated from root suckers. A popular avenue and garden tree, Millingtonia should not be planted in windy locations because the wood is brittle, weak and cracks easily.

— Chandana Roy is a UAE-based gardening enthusiast

Ttips: Selecting the trees and preparing the site

Right tree selection is crucial to its success in the garden. Before purchasing or planting a tree, keep its mature size in mind. Trees with spreading branches, such as gulmohar (Delonix regia) or yellow poinciana, should not be planted in narrow strips or smayards. Avoid planting trees near windows as they wieventually grow taller and block light and air from entering the home.

Choose hardy, non-allergenic, drought-tolerant species that are weadapted to the local climate and require less maintenance.

Sites for planting trees should be carefully planned and prepared. Once planted, the tree is going to be in that position for decades and, therefore, the selected site must provide the best growing conditions. Even in smagardens, the microclimate may vary considerably from one part to another. Choose a well-drained, sunny site, which is not too exposed to strong winds. Clear the site of aplant growth to eliminate competition for food and water.

The site must be cleared of athe rubble and stones. Most trees require a depth of 1 to 1.5 metres to grow we — the planting hole should be filled with well-rotted compost and then a final layer of sweet soil should be applied so the roots do not touch the compost.

Gently set the tree into the hole in an erect position. Pack the sweet soil around to build a smacircular mound around the base of the planted tree.

After planting, water thoroughly, allowing the hose to slowly drip at the tree's base. For the first few weeks, newly planted trees need several soakings. A new plant — even the drought-tolerant species — need plenty of water to get established.

Ornamental trees suitable for large gardens

- Gulmohar (Delonix regia)
- Cork tree (Millingtonia hortensis)
- Yellow Poinciana (Peltophorum pterocarpum)
- Ornamental trees for smagardens
- Indian Laburnum (Cassia fistula)
- Frangipani tree (Plumeria)
-Drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera)
-Scarlet Cordia (Cordia sebestena)
- Frywood tree (Albizzia lebbeck)
- Trees that give shade
- Indian Almond (Terminalia catappa)
- Ghaf (Prosopis cineraria)
- Neem (Azadirachta indica)
- Gulmohar (Delonix regia)
- Yellow Poinciana (Peltophorum pterocarpum)
- Umbrella tree (Thespesia populnea)
- Peepul, Sacred fig (Ficus religiosa )
- Tamarind (Tamarindus indica)
- Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis)

Trees that birds love

- Frangipani tree (Plumeria)
- Drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera)
- Indian Laburnum (Cassia fistula)
- Sidr or Jujube tree (Ziziphus spina christi)
- Date palm or Nakheel (Phoenix dactylifera)
- Neem (Azadirachta indica)
- Indian curry tree (Murraya koenigii)
- Arabian Gum tree or Babul (Acacia arabica)

Tips: Watch out for…

When buying trees, look for healthy and well-developed roots and shoots. Do not buy a pot-bound tree with tightly coiled roots that also has knots and kinks.

Plant the tree immediately after purchase.

Newly planted trees need frequent watering and special care titheir roots are established.

Staking, in the early stages, is necessary to help the tree anchor itself to the soil and develop a straight trunk.

If the tree is planted in a lawn area, the turf should be kept away from the tree trunk, as grasses growing close to the young tree wicompete for nutrients and water.
A tree with large surface roots, such as gulmohar (Delonix regia) should not be planted too close to walls, pavements, drains or the home's foundation, as their strong roots may damage these structures.

Messy trees that drop fruits and leaves should be planted in the backyard and not in the front lawn or near pools.

Avoid damaging a tree's bark with lawn mowers or clippers, as any injury to this vital tissue may dwarf or even kithe tree.

Inspect leaves and branches for signs of pests or diseases and take measures to prevent and treat these problems before they turn serious.

Light surface sprinkling is harmful to trees, for it encourages the roots to grow near the surface of the soil. A thorough soaking wiencourage the roots to grow deeper, resulting in healthy growth.

Light pruning is useful to control the tree-size and keep the crown in good shape. But avoid drastic pruning.