February Tree of the Month: the versatile Silver Birch

Straight from the mind of James Seyffer, an award winning landscape designer based in Melbourne.

Common name: Moss White Silver Birch.

Botanical name: Betula pendula (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_pendula)

Height 8-10m Width 3 – 5m

A favorite of landscape and garden designers everywhere (also undoubtedly one of Melbourne’s most popular trees and with good reason), this beautiful tree should really be “Tree of the decade” and ill tell you why….

Whether you are designing a courtyard in Coburg or an acreage in Trentham, this tree has it all! Centrepiece, backdrop or fence line, the Silver Birch adds instant value to any landscape, garden or outdoor space. Just like the runway in Paris, many trees and plants go in and out of fashion all the time. That simply is not the case with the Silver Birch, a timeless classic, it will serve as a stunning addition to your home and garden for years to come.

In a small garden, it stands alone perfectly, with its feature bark and structured branches, providing beautifully filtered shade in summer (3-5m wide) and being deciduous, it yields the much-wanted sunlight in winter. No need for a corten feature/sculpture when you have a Silver birch, just add feature lighting, and let the bark do all the talking!

When designing an acreage/large landscape, a common tendency is to propose Moss White’s in a copse (small group of trees.) in groups of 3 or 5 (always plant trees in odds!). Planting Betula’s in groups gives the effect of a forest and a fantastic focal point within the landscape. As a bonus, they’re a relatively inexpensive tree, making for an easily accessible tree to mass plant. Again, demonstrating their versatility the Silver Birch can just as easily be planted along the boundary of your garden or landscape as an elegant fence or screen. When planting with these trees, I tend to keep understory to a minimum. Plants that work great as an undergrowth with birches are Lomandra, Arthropodium, Canary Island Ivy and gardenias.

These trees thrive particularly in moist, well-drained soil in full sun to dappled shade. Hailing naturally from particularly cold climates (fun fact, the Silver Birch is the national tree of Finland and its branches are commonly used in Finnish sauna culture to gently beat oneself! Yes, you read that correctly.) Melbourne winters are a breeze for the Silver Birch which thrives all year round with considerably little maintenance. They do however require moderate watering throughout the warmer, drier months due to their shallow roots.

If you love the look of the Silver Birch and want to know more, contact us and we can start mapping out how to incorporate this beautiful tree into the design for your landscape, garden or project today.

Happy landscaping!

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