Growing trees in the Clare Valley of South Australia

New folliage on gums
Colourful new folliage on gum trees (photo about 2004).
I made the mistake of planting these wood-lot trees too close together.
The aim of this page is to allow readers to learn from my mistakes - and my successes. I have planted over a hundred fruit and nut trees, hundreds of olive trees, and thousands of native trees over the past thirteen years on the family patch at 'Elysium', Armagh, in the Clare Valley of South Australia.

Also see:

There have been some disasters (of the first 80 Banksias planted, all died), many limited successes (olive trees, for example), and some good successes (several species of Eucalypts, Acacias, quinces, figs, feijoas, mulberries, and some others thrive).

Hopefully I've learned something about what helps to keep trees alive, and what might make them thrive rather than just survive in the soil and climate conditions at Clare. If that can be passed on to some other people, perhaps their learning process will be a little quicker and easier than mine was.

Note that many of the statements made on this page apply to my experience in the Clare area and may not apply in different areas, in different soils, different climates or different micro-environments.

All the photos on this page were taken on Elysium.

Written about February 2002, last edited 2023/05/21
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

Botanical convention is followed in the use of italics for formal plant names.


Stewardship, not ownership

First, I don't believe that we 'own' our land in the same way that we own a camera or a computer. We are stewards of the land. It has been said that we don't inherit the land from our parents, we borrow it from our children. Any landowner who has allowed his soil to be damaged substantially, or worse, to be washed or blown away, has failed in his primary responsibility. Any landowner who has left the soil in better condition than it was in when he took on the stewardship responsibility can be proud.

It's a lot easier to work with nature than against it

I've learned that, with 46ha to try to manage, and with minimal machinery, it is important to work out what 'fits' with the land and climate, rather than trying to grow what is not well suited to the land. One tries to - in a way - impose one's will on the top 20cm of soil; to stop it from growing plants that one doesn't want (weeds) and get it to grow plants that one can be satisfied with. The top 20cm of soil on 'my' property, I calculate, weighs about 160 million killograms. I weigh about 75kg. If I am to have any chance of 'controlling' two million times my own weight of soil, with little use of machinery, I must do things that the soil is well suited to doing. As has often been said, you have to work with nature, not against it.

Classified by success

I've kept this list simple.
Mainly common names here.
All references are on this page.

Trees that thrive

Acacia notabilis
Acacia pycnantha
Red gum
Illawarra flame tree
Native pine
Pinus radiata

Trees that do alright

Bunya pine
English oak
Sugar gum

Trees that need a lot of care




Trees: Resources

What I've called resources for this use are those things that are available to me, are useful toward growing our trees and that I have some significant influence over.


Soil is what any farm is all about. At Elysium the topsoil is a thin silty loam, phosphate deficient and with very little structure. Beneath the topsoil is either stone or clay. Drainage is very poor, when one walks in the winter water 'squelches' out from beneath one's rubber boots. (See water-logging.) The best feature of the soil is that it is loaded with worms whenever it is damp.

The soil, its structure and its drainage can be improved by mounding and especially mulching. The soil can deeply crack as it dries in summer, with the risk of tunnel erosion. On the other hand, I think that this cracking can provide easy paths for plants to get their roots down to considerable depths.

Soil acidity, pH

Most of my soil is fairly acid. In selected areas I am trying to gradually correct this by the addition of lime and shellgrit. (The lime is quick acting, but may be a bit hard on worms; the shellgrit is very slow, but probably easier on worms.) I also return the wood ash from my stoves to the soil (wood ash is largely calcium oxide [quicklime] with significant amounts of phosphates and potasium compounds); as with so many things, a little wood ash can be good for a soil, more is not necessarily better.


Mediterranean; cool wet winters (frosts are fairly common, snow very rare), hot dry summers. There is usually enough run-off in the winter to fill an earth dam. Average annual rainfall is 600mm.


The property has four small dams, only one of which is equipped with a pump. There are three wells: one shallow old brick lined hand dug well that is often dry, one unequipped drilled well with a small yield of relatively saline water, and one drilled well with a good yield of fair quality (1000-1100mg/L) water. This last is the property's main water supply. Water from the dams is less saline (200-400mg/L) than the well water.

Also see irrigation.

Trees: Culture

I've included in this section things that I do to help the trees survive, to conserve the soil, etc.


My irrigation of trees is by dripper. I only irrigate around the home garden, all other trees make do with natural rainfall.

I try to water most of my fruit and nut trees from the dam; the olive trees made do with well water when they were young, they have had no water in recent years. The salinity of the dam water varies between about 200-400 mg/L.

Many fruit and nut trees get watered about every couple of weeks in summer. I'm sure many trees would do better if they received more water.

Some trees, including oaks I've given some water during their first summer, and then they have to look after themselves. Generally the only water native trees get is a good soaking when they are planted. Our olive trees were given some water for only their first four years or so.

Also see the entry on water under Trees: Resources.


Planting a tree on a mound improves the drainage; the steeper slopes that the mound creates helps excess water drain away. I have been using substantial mounds since about 1999; my impression is that they can, if large enough, solve the water-logging problem. Water logging is worse some winters than others; it was particularly bad in the relatively wet winter of 2001.


Organic mulching is very important in reducing evaporation and improving the structure, drainage, fertility and water-holding capacity of the soil.

I do not bring gravel onto the property for use as mulch, but I have used slabs of rock to build retaining walls (see Cellar) and as a border to paths (see Stones for water conservation).

In 2001 and 2002 I used grape mark as mulch (what is left after the wineries have finished with the grapes: skins, stems, etc.) because it could be had in the Clare Valley for the price of carting (in 18 tonne loads). In large quantities it is not suitable for use in towns because it is strong smelling for the first few months. I have found it to be quite acceptable: it is easy to handle, has no viable seeds in it, reduces evaporation from the soil and adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down.

Unfortunately grape mark was not available from 2003 onward, so I changed to sawdust (which was available from Morgan's sawmill at Jamestown for about $200 for 30m3 delivered). This seems to be very good; it is easy to shovel, light weight to cart, conserves soil moisture very effectively, and controls weed germination. Sawdust is water-repellent when dry and is slow to break down; this latter means that sawdust does not seem to cause nitrogen-drawdown. I have not been able to get sawdust from 2005 onward (when I 'phone Morgan's they say that they will organise it, but it has not actually happened).

Recently I have had a couple of loads of tree-lopping mulch from Fox's. It seems to be quite acceptable, but is not so easy to handle as sawdust; nitrogen-drawdown is heavy for the first few months.

Cereal straw, or better yet, legume straw is also good for mulching. Cereal straw can be difficult to get out of big round bales.

Stones for water conservation

Stones along path
When (and if) it rains the rain will run off the stony path and be of some use to the pumpkins.
The bare soil in this area gets very sticky when wet. The gravel will stop it sticking to boots.
All the stones used here came from the hole dug for the cellar.
Water is precious and often in short supply at Elysium; it is important to make the most of the limited rainfall.

Readers might have noticed that in the drier parts of Australia vegetation is often more luxuriant adjacent to roads. This is due to the fact that this vegetation effectively gets more rain than vegetation elsewhere. Roads, especially but not only sealed roads, do not absorb much rain water; it usually runs off. This is effectively a form of accidental irrigation.

A similar effect can be achieved by using stones to line paths (and gravel as a base to a path). The rain runs off the stone and soaks into the nearby soil. Also, when the rain is over, the stone provides a barrier between the damp soil and the air; reducing evaporation losses.

When using stones is this way one should consider that weeds will grow between the stones (control by hand weeding and spot spraying), and that the stones are heavy and hard work is involved in placing and moving them.

Tree Guards

Tree guards at 'Elysium', Armagh, in the Clare Valley,
S. Australia
The 'standard' guard is not always enough. Sheep are particularly destructive anywhere near the top of a hill, where these trees are. The small trees inside the guards are slow growing carobs, the bigger trees, Eucalypts and a sheoak, are about the same age. It turned out that the soil in this area is about as thin and poor as any part of Elysium.
If you are going to grow trees in the same area as you run sheep, tree guards are essential for most species. Some trees are more palatable than others:
Very palatable
Native pine, Casuarina, olive, apricot
Moderately palatable
Eucalypts, Callistemon
Fairly unpalatable
Acacia, English oak(?)
Quite unpalatable
Bunya pine
I have not planted most of my fruit and nut trees in places where the sheep can get at them, so do not know how palatable they are.

My standard tree guard is 1.05m wire netting wrapped around an old car tire as a base, and with a rough frame of either pine or gum sticks, wired to the tire and wired together at their ends, to protect the guard from crushing by sheep. This protects against hares as well as the sheep.

Once the trees start to stick out the top of the guard, the sheep will reach over and eat them; one of several things can be done:

  • Replace the 1.05m netting guard with a 1.20m one;
  • Replace the netting guard with a 1.2m welded mesh guard;
  • Add a netting extension to the top of the guard.
  • Hope that the tree will outgrow the sheep during the period when the sheep are absent;
The disadvantage of the welded mesh guards is that they cost about $15 each compared to $5 for the netting ones. They can of course be moved on to other trees as required.

Trees: Problems

Here I've listed those things that work against my aims, the hurdles I've had to try to overcome, and what I've done about them.


Tunnel erosion

There are several drains running around the sides of the Elysium hills to collect water and deliver it to the dams. In the summer, as the subsoil dries and the clay shrinks, deep cracks can appear in the soil and subsoil. When sufficient rain later falls for runoff to occur, where the cracks cut across the drains, water can flow beneath the bank bounding the drain, washing some soil with it, beginning the process of tunnel erosion.

I wish I had a simple cure to offer for this problem, all I can suggest is:

  • Watching out for leakage from drains as soon as the first runoff for the year occurs;
  • Closing up the cracks if they are small by, perhaps, driving a tractor over them;
  • If holes wash out, digging down and packing them with stones, gravel, and soil;
There is one place where I've had to repeat the third step at least six times; I seem to be getting on top of the problem, certainly there has been very little erosion happening there in recent years.

Root competition

Established South Australian blue gums Eucalyptus leucoxylon will stunt the growth of, or even kill, many other trees planted within a 50m radius.


The soil on Elysium has very poor drainage and the consequent water-logging in winter (especially in the more than usually wet winters), it seems to me, weakens the root systems of the trees. I suspect that the saturated soil in winter also discourages root development, while in summer the soil is probably too hard for roots to grow through it.

This can be at least partly controlled by mounding and mulching.

Recycling waste water and soil sodicity

Our waste water goes into the garden soil. This can result in the soil becoming sodic with consequent loss of fertility. We try to minimise this risk by minimising our use of sodium-containing bathroom and laundry products, minimising our dietary salt, and adding wood ash and lime to the soil.



I need sheep to eat some of the 'grass' and so reduce the summer fire hazard. Sheep do produce some income from agistment payments, but I have paid far more for fencing and tree guards than I have received from agistment. However, sheep are very destructive; they will eat the leaves of most trees, possibly destroy a tree guard in the process, and they will sometimes ringbark trees as well.

Sheep are particularly destructive anywhere near the top of a hill where they like to camp. Unfortunately, tops of hills are good places to plant trees: to reduce the wind speed a bit and even to provide some shelter for the bloody sheep!


Eucalypts can be setback by a heavy infestation of lurps (leaf eating insects). In my experience no action is needed to control them, as the trees will almost invariably fully recover in about a year. I have had young trees almost entirely defoliated by what I have taken as being lurps.

Bird cage
I built this 81m2 bird exclusion area, based on 3m creosote poles and wire netting, in 2004 at a cost of about $900.

Fruit eating birds

After nine years we had only picked one decent crop of ripe apples; no pears, no nashis; the birds usually get them first. The crop of apples was on a tree that we completely covered with wirenetting before the apples were ripe.

They are a little slower to get stone fruit, harder on peaches and nectarines than apricots and plums; but still, we loose a lot. I suspect the only way to protect your fruit is to completely net the trees.

We have tried a plastic hawk tethered to a pole; didn't seem to have any effect at all. One trick we heard of recently was to spray the ripening fruit with Omomatic (clothes washing detergent), the birds supposedly will stop eating because they don't like the taste, while it is easily washed off before human consumption. Might be worth a try.

The only answer that I can guarantee is netting, as in the illustration at the right.


Kangaroos seem particularly partial to figs; I might have to set up a temporary electric fence around two fig trees (2010/02/21).


In my experience at Elysium, only a problem on SA blue gums. It is very common throughout the Clare Valley and can kill adult trees. The mistletoes are natives, (family Loranthaceae) and were at one time in some sort of a balance with their hosts, but the clearing of much of the land seems to have upset that balance.

There is a mistletoe Action Group in Clare that, for a time helped pay for lopping mistletoe from your trees. Contact the Council. (July 2002) The cost of professional lopping of mistletoe from a large blue gum is more than $100 per tree.

Fruit trees

I've included in this section all those trees that produce an edible product generally termed 'fruit'; nut trees, oaks and carobs are in their own section(s).

In alphabetical order of botanical names

Feijoa tree
Photo May 2007 - This tree was planted about 1996

Feijoa: Acca sellowiana, pineapple guava

Native to southern Brazil and northern Argentina, feijoa seem very well suited to Elysium. We planted our first about 1996 and it's still doing well; perhaps a little slow growing compared to some trees, but always looks healthy. It has produced a good crop of fruit each year after about its second.
Feijoa fruit
Some of the very heavy crop of 2007

The fruit are tasty, slightly astringent, (no pealing needed, no stone or large seeds to spit out), and the birds haven't recognized that they are edible.

We planted a second tree about 2000 and it produced its first crop in 2003. Unfortunately the fruit from this tree is not so nice as that from the first, although they do improve when allowed to become very ripe. This tree is apparently a different variety to the first.

Feijoas do better at Clare if they get an occasional deep watering through the summer.

I have not mounded these trees, they don't seem to need it.

See also the true Guava.

Cherry trees
Planted about 2002, photographed 2009/11/26

Cherry: Prunus ?lusitanica

We have two of these, they have done well in spite of the soil being particularly shallow and stoney in this area.

They produced a very few cherries for the first time in the summer of 2005. In 2006 we had a 5L bucket of cherries from each tree, there was a good crop again in 2007. In 2008 the birds got the lot; the photo shows another fair crop in 2009.

Orange tree
May 2007 - The foliage is a healthy dark green, I've found it very difficult to get such healthy foliage on citrus trees in another area.

Citrus: Citrus s.

I have been surprised at how well our citrus trees have done. We have orange, lemon, grapefruit, mandarin and lime.

The Citrus trees have been mounded, although I've seen no evidence that they suffered from water-logging. We were warned to not plant Citrus until about September to reduce the risk from frosts. We did this, and have never seen any indication of frost damage.

Quince tree
January 2002. This tree has produced a couple of useful crops, and it looks like there is another on the way. Ready to pick in March?

Quince: Cydonia oblonga

The quinces too have done very well; no indication of problems from water-logging. I have mounded the more recently planted quinces, but the first, which was not mounded, is still doing very well.

Quinces are attacked by birds, but not to the same extent as are stone fruit or apples. Another advantage of quinces is that since they are usually grown on their own roots they can be propagated from suckers.

Quinces cannot be eaten fresh, but are good stewed and make a delicious clear quince jelly that can be used like jam.

Persimmon: Diospyros s.

We planted three in one year, all died; I don't know why, but with that result I wouldn't recommend trying to grow persimmons in the Clare Valley.

Loquat tree
January 2002 - These two loquats seem to handle the soil and climate at Elysium with ease.

Loquat: Eriobotrya japonica

We planted two trees grown from suckers about 1996. They are close to our septic tank outflow and are doing very well. They have not been mounded.

We removed these trees in 2005 because, while they remained healthy, they did not produce a useful crop.

Fig tree
This tree has produced several good crops in spite of not getting a lot of water or other attention. January 2002.

Fig: Ficus carica

Figs seem well suited to conditions in the Clare Valley, although if they are to bear a good crop they do need a fair bit of water, either natural or by irrigation. We planted our first trees about 1994, while one died very soon after planting, the other original is still growing well and regularly producing fruit. We have planted several more since.

They are easily propagated from cuttings or suckers, but do not like their roots disturbed when planting. In future I will pot any that have bare roots so that I can give them close attention and plenty of water, and only plant them out - with care to not disturb the roots - when established in the pot.

Mounding does not seem to be necessary, the trees have shown no signs of suffering ill-effects from water-logging.

Kangaroos seem particularly partial to ripe figs.

Apple tree in netting
The wire-netting is the type commonly used for farm fencing. It protected the apples from birds; we picked a big crop in February 2002.

Apple: Malus s.

Our first trees were planted about 1994. They have done fairly well, although I'm sure they would do better with more water in summer. We had never had any fruit from them up until 2002, the birds always got it first. Apple trees (and other pome fruit trees) do not seem to suffer so much from either the summer droughts or winter water-logging as stone fruit trees.

It seems that fully covering apple trees with netting is the only way to protect them from birds, which will start on apples and pears when they are still green and hard.

Apples and pears seem to do fairly well even without water in addition to natural rainfall.

White Mulberry: Morus alba

Doing quite well, but not getting as much water as it needs. I strongly suspect that building up the organic matter in the soil would greatly help. We have had very little fruit from this one, probably because of the neglect.

Mulberry tree
This mulberry tree is growing well. Photo January 2002

Black Mulberry: Morus nigra

Doing quite well, but not getting as much water as it needs. I strongly suspect that building up the organic matter in the soil would greatly help. A good fruit producer given the insufficiency of water and general neglect.

I have planted several more since these first two, but they are not yet (April 2007) old enough to produce a crop.

Olive picking
Having a tea break during olive picking.
A fair part of Elysium is visible in the background.

Olive: Olea europaea

Olives grow wild in the Clare Valley, they are a woody weed in some places! Consumption of pickled olives, and even more, olive oil, is increasing steadily in Australia. One would think that olive trees would have to be a commercially viable option.

My impression is that they don't like the water-logging that happens almost every winter, and that they need more water than I am prepared to give them if they are to set a commercial crop in the spring. They seem to suffer from the fairly quick change from wet feet to hard, dry soil in spring; especially as this often coincides with their flowering.

Still, if you only want some olives to pickle and some oil to use yourself and to give away to friends, then, by all means, plant some olive trees.

The SA Verdale variety seem to produce the largest crops while not getting any irrigation. Manzanillo is another good cropper, but it has a reputation for being difficult to extract the oil from the olive pulp.

Avocado tree
Avocado tree
Photo Jan. 2007

Avocado: Persea americana

We planted the first two avacado trees about 1996. They did well for a year or so, then died. I believe that the problem was to do with water-logging in winter and hard, dry soil in summer. Mounding will help avoid water-logging and mulching will conserve moisture and eventually improve the soil.

We planted another avocado in 2005 and early in 2007 it has produced a few fruit and is still doing well. It has been kept heavily mulched, has been mounded, and watered fairly regularly through summer.

I'd say that if you want to grow avocados in the Clare area, they will need a place that does not get heavy frosts, low salinity water in summer, and protection from water-logging in winter.

Apricot January 2002 - This Moorpark tree was planted in winter of 2000. It and five others nearby are doing well. Note the weld-mesh tree guards; these are the next stage after trees outgrow the simple, cheap, wire-netting guards. Also note the mounds and mulching.

Apricot: Prunus armeniaca

We planted about five in 1994. They grew well and produced a couple of good crops, then died. Again, I believe water-logging to be the problem.

We planted another six trees in the winter of 2000, this time on mounds. They are producing good crops and, in early 2007, are still looking healthy.

Sheep find apricot leaves, and even bark, very palatable.

Plum trees
Two plum trees in January 2002

Plum: Prunus domestica

Plums grow wild in the Clare Valley, but the wild trees seem only to produce a crop following a better than average year, and then the fruit is very small.

We planted about ten trees in 1994. These produced quite a heavy crop once in a while. Most of these have not been watered in recent years and seem rarely to produce a significant crop. A couple of satsumas that were planted where they can be conveniently watered through summer are producing much larger and more reliable crops.

It seems that while plum trees grow like weeds in the Clare Valley, in order to get a crop from the better breads, they will need additional water through the growing season.

A peach tree at Elysium, in its second year of growth; January 2002

Peach, Nectarine: Prunus persica

These do well enough for a few years. We've had some die, probably because of water-logging or insufficient water through summer; mounding seems to be essential. They need protection from birds, treatment for curly leaf in early spring and watering through the growing season.

The tree in the photo on the right is still doing well in 2007.

Strawberry Guava
Strawberry guava
Photo Jan. 2007. It is about 1m high.

Strawberry Guava: Psidium cattleianum

Planted in 2001; as of May 2003 it has produced several small crops and is growing slowly. In 2005 and 2006 it produced quite a good crop.

The fruit are small, extremely rich in vitamin C, and have a strawberry-like flavour. They can be eaten fresh, or made into jams and jellies.

Also see Feijoa, which are alternatively known as pinapple guava.

Pear, Nashi: Pyrus s.

Our original trees are doing fairly well, would probably do better with more water through summer. They were planted in 1994. Birds eating the fruit is a big problem, as can be cherry slug.

Several were planted in a large bird-excluding enclosure in 2004. By 2007 they had produced some fruit.

Nut trees

In this section are the 'edible' nuts, including Australian natives such as Macadamia and Bunya pines. The English oak is excluded, although I believe acorns can be eaten if one is sufficiently hungry. The Acacias have been excluded, even though their seeds are edible; indeed, quite tasty, although I can't see them becoming more than a novelty item on any menu.

Pecan trees
Bunya pine tree
Photo Jan. 2007

Bunya: Araucaria bidwillii

My son, Ken, gave me three small seedlings in early 2000 after I had made several unsuccessful attempts to grow them from seeds. In January 2007 two of these are still alive, looking healthy, but they are growing very slowly. In my experience, it's not uncommon for trees to sit and do nothing for the first year after being planted out, but it looks like growth on these bunyas will remain slow.

Bunyas, which are related to the famous and extremely rare walami pines, can grow to very big trees in South Australia. They are one of the very few trees that I have come across that are entirely unpalatable to sheep.

Pecan trees
The very healthy looking pecan tree, with a red gum on the left.
Photo January 2002. In Jan. 2007 this tree is about 4m tall.

Pecan: Carya illinoinensis

We planted one pecan tree about 1994. It is growing very well; the picture of health. It has only produced fair crops of small nuts (as of 2007), probably because it gets no water other than natural. I believe that pecans are not very self fertile. We planted several more trees around 2004 and 2005 in locations where they can be watered; they have not yet (2007) produced a crop.

The red gum in the background of the photo, planted about the same time as the pecan, was removed in early 2003.

Chestnut: Castanea sativa

Chestnut tree
Photo Jan. 2007
We planted one around 1996, but it died. This may just have been bad luck.

The second one, planted in the winter of 2002, did show some salt burning in 2003, probably because it was irrigated with bore water at around 1100mg/L through the summer.

In early 2007 this tree is doing very well and has produced some nuts.

Walnut: Juglans s.

We planted two in about 1997. Both died. I suggest they need lots of good quality water, or exceptionally deep, rich soil, and perhaps good drainage, if they are to do well in the Clare Valley.

One other, dug out in about February 2007, is still surviving in late April 2007.

Macadamia: Macadamia tetraphylla

Macadamia trees
A macadamia tree, photographed May 2007
Two were planted about 1997 and three more two years later. One died (unknown cause), all the others are doing so well that I wonder why there are not many more in the Clare Valley. I suggest mounding to protect them from water-logging and mulching to conserve water and improve the soil.

We planted three more in 2006. As of early 2007 the four surviving older trees are still producing many nuts. My impression is that the trees need a fair bit of water if they are to grow large nuts.

Pistachio trees Pistachio nuts
Two pistachios, January 2002 - the tree on the right should have been pruned when dormant in winter.
Ripening nuts on a pistachio
Photo Jan. 2007

Pistachio: Pistacia vera

We planted two about 1996, one of which died shortly after. We planted another about 1998. Both trees are looking very good, but unfortunately, both turned out to be male. Male and female trees are needed to produce fruit. We have since planted two females, one of which, although still (2007) very small, is producing well. I'd suggest mounding pistachios.

As of May 2003 the pistacios were still doing well, but not yet producing.

Native trees

In this section I've included only Australian native trees that do not produce what are generally thought of as edible nuts. For example, I've excluded the Macadamia and the Bunya nut, even though they are natives; native trees that produce edible nuts are discussed under Nut trees.


Several native tree species (mainly Eucalypts, possibly also Casuarinas) are suitable for the production of firewood in the Clare Valley. Firewood that can ethically and legally be cut is becoming scarce in South Australia, forcing prices up and making it more attractive as a crop. Also see my section on firewood as an environmentaly sustainable heating fuel. I suggest planting large wood-lot species no closer together than 8m, or even as much as 20m if you want to graze between the trees. If you plant at spacings as small as 3m, as I did initially, the trees will be heavily competing with each other by the time they are four years old. By the time they are ten years old the larger trees will only be able to grow by killing the smaller trees.

Planting native trees

Through years of trial and error at Elysium I have come to the conclusion that the best way of planting those native species that are easy to grow at Clare is as follows (this technique has been developed for broad-acre planting of many trees with minimum expense and effort but without special machinery):
  • The tree or shrub to be planted should have a healthy growth of roots and must not be pot bound. If it is pot bound then you should pot it up and allow its roots to spread into the new soil before you plant it out.
  • Ideally plant anytime through the late spring, summer, or early autumn while the soil is warm. Trees planted when the soil is cold (winter: June to August) will not do anything until the weather warms, and while they are doing nothing they are vulnerable. If planted while the soil is warm they will continue growing. Also, working in mud in the cold of winter is not pleasant.
  • Loosen an area of soil about 60cm in diameter to a depth of about 20cm (the full length of the prong of a pick). The hole can be more shallow toward the edge: bowl shaped.
  • Break up the large clods of earth.
  • Take the plant out of its tube or pot and break up any mat of roots on the surface of the root mass, trying to leave the bulk of the root mass as intact as possible.
  • Plant with the top of the root mass a few centimetres lower than the general ground surface.
  • Fill in around the plant to the top of the root mass. The aim here is to leave a shallow depression with slightly raised walls; sufficient to contain 5 - 10 litres of water.
  • Saturate the loosened soil. If you can't slowly pour on at least 20L without it running away you have not loosened enough soil. Of course much less water will be required if the soil is already damp.
  • Cover the loosened soil with mulch. For preference I use about 20L of sawdust, but anything that will suppress weed growth and reduce evaporation can be used, eg. newspaper, the chopped leaves and sticks from roadside tree trimming, grape mark, etc. It is important that the mulch covers all the soil that you have wet, so that germinating seeds will die from lack of light.
  • This treatment will probably give a local native tree enough water to survive the remainder of the summer. If there is a long period without rain, or a period of exceptional heat, additional watering may be required. I find that it is easier to replace the few trees that die than to do additional watering rounds.
  • You can use an old car tyre both as a marker and to discourage the occasional rabbit, hare or kangaroo from browsing the seedling. More protection will of course be needed if sheep are going to be grazing or for the more palatable species (eg. Allocasuarinas and Callitris); see Tree guards. Without a marker you will loose track of where you have planted the trees. Don't forget to remove the tyre before the tree becomes so big that you can't.
  • Weed growth will be a greater threat to the newly planted tree than hot or dry weather; weeds suck all the water from the soil very efficiently, and they can crowd-out small trees.
I planted a number of gums at the end of January 2004 using the above method. February was exceptionally hot; none died. I think I gave them a couple of waterings after planting. I planted again in the summers of 2005 and 2006. I did very little summer watering, few trees died. Many more of the trees that I planted in winter died than those planted in summer.

Tree guards at 'Elysium', Armagh, in the Clare Valley,
S. Australia

----- Photograph -----
Honey-myrtles Melaleuca acuminata or brevifolia? around the wall of the dam (they have fine roots, not likely to make a hole which could cause the dam wall to fail).

More distant is a plantation of mainly Eucalypts, some Allocasuarina. (I planted these trees too close together. My current thinking [2007] is to plant big wood-lot species no closer together than 10m.) This is the same patch of trees as shown on the first photo at the top of this page.

Beyond the Eucalypts and Casuarinas the paler trees are olives.

The big trees are blue gums, probably fifty or more years old.

The photo was taken about November 2000.

Wattles: Acacia species

Acacia notabilis in flower
This Acacia notabilis was grown from seed and planted, together with many more, on a nature strip on Elysium adjacent to the Blyth road.
These are wonderful trees if you like blossom and scent. The different species flower at various times of the year, and their fragrance is pleasant and quite strong. At best they cover themselves with bright yellow blossoms.

While many have short lives, a decade or less, others can live many years.

They are easy to grow from seeds, although once I had a whole box of about fifty seedlings that failed to do well; just sat and felt sorry for themselves.

Notable wattle: Acacia notabilis

More a shrub than a tree really, still I couldn't resist including it. It flowers profusely around July or August, right in the middle of winter when nothing much else is flowering; I often feel it's the first sign of spring.

Acacia callamifolia

A large shrub or small tree that is unusual for an Acacia in having needle-like phylodes rather than flattened leaf-like phylodes. Bright yellow blossum, although perhaps not as showy as notabilis or pycnantha.

Acacia pendula

These trees have, as the name implies, a beautiful drooping habbit when they reach maturity. I believe they are one of the most beautiful of the wattles in their own right - the blossoms are not particularly striking.

Golden wattle: Acacia pycnantha

This small tree, endemic to the Valley, grows well and quickly, can produce a beautiful crop of yellow, strongly scented blossoms, but unfortunately has a short life: perhaps only five or six years.

Seedling come up uninvited, apparently being brought in by birds; all they need to grow then is protection from the sheep.

Casuarina stricta
Planted about 1994, photographed 2002


The Allocasuarinas and Casuarinas self-seed more effectively than most natives.

Sheoak: Allocasuarina verticillata

Very palatable to sheep, so requiring sound protection while within their reach. Not only do the sheep eat the neadles, but will ring- bark the young trees as well if given the opportunity.

This tree grows quite well at Elysium, although certainly more slowly than the Eucalypts.

An alternative name is Casuarina stricta.

This tree was planted about 2002 and the photograph taken in May 2007.

Banksia s.

Our greatest disaster. It was my plan to grow Banksia flowers for sale to florists as one way to produce a bit of income. Ken, my son, and I bought some in tubes and raised others from seed. We planted 80 or more, only to have every one of them die.
Banksia blossom
A blossom on the same tree

Yet Ian Roberts, at Banksia Park, which is within easy cycling distance, grows them quite successfully. I can only ascribe my problem to lack of good soil drainage; they couldn't stand the winter water-logging.

In more recent times I have planted several Banksias in small heaps of sand and most of these have done quite well.

Illawara Flame Tree: Brachychiton acerifolius

----- Photograph -----
Illawara flame tree or flame kurrajong; January 2002. This specimen was planted about 1996; as of June 2003 it has not yet flowered.
Not fast growing, but neither are they at all difficult to grow; Several of these have been sucessfull at Elysium. They have not been given any special attention. Flame tree


A number of trees grown from seed were planted; they are doing moderately well. They seem to appreciate a fair bit of water in the summer, especially if a good show of flowers is wanted. Those grown from seed do not seem to hold their flowers for long compared to the Gawler Hybrid.


Native pine
These trees were planted about 1999.
The lower part of these trees have been defoliated by sheep.
Native pines do very well at Armagh. They are very hardy but very palatable to sheep. Care must be taken with young Callitris that the sheep do not ring-bark them.

Callitris are also very slow growing, however they are beautiful trees and are worth waiting for. One of my favourites of the local natives.

These may be C. preisii or C. collumnaris.

Callitris are easy to grow from seed and will self-seed.

Eucalypts: Eucalyptus s.

Gum trees

What do I need to say as an introduction to gum trees? In case the reader has not read much about, or visited Australia, gum trees are the essence of Australia. Australia would not be Australia if not for gum trees.

There are over 700 species, most of them endemic to Australia. Depending on their type of bark and their growth habit Eucalypt species are often placed in groups such as box trees, mallees, stringybarks and ironbarks.

Gum trees were, with the Australian landscape, the main subject of the great Australian painter Hans Heysen. Most often he painted red gums.

The section on Planting native trees applies especially to Eucalypts.

A pest of Eucalypts is lurps.

Red gum: Eucalyptus camaldulensis

Early morning sun shining through a pine plantation onto 
young red gums and sheep, 'Elysium', Clare Valley, S. Australia
The young trees in the photo are red gums that were planted about 1994. This gully becomes very wet every winter; the red gums are plainly thriving. Pinus radiata in the background.

A truly remarkable tree; very tolerant of water-logging, easy to grow and quick growing, not bothered much by frosts, and drought tolerant. The only place I've found where they don't do well at Elysium is where they have some shade and root competition from established Pinus radiata and blue gums.

Red gums are suitable for the production of firewood in the Clare Valley.

Sugar gum

Sugar gum: Eucalyptus cladocalyx

A little harder to grow at Elysium than red gums and Tasmanian blue gums, but a very attractive tree when mature, and worth the little extra effort. They grow very well once established.

Sugar gums are probably suitable for the production of firewood in the Clare Valley.

----- Photograph -----
This tree was planted about 1994 and photographed in 2002. Note the very dense foliage; this seems typical of most young, healthy gums at Elysium.

Tas. blue gum
Tas. blue gum
The tallest trees in this photo are Tasmanian blue gums.

Tasmanian blue gum: Eucalyptus globulus

This, we have found, is the second easiest tree to grow (after red gum) at Elysium. It is generally even faster growing than red gums, and while juvenile globulus have distinctive leaves, the older trees with mature foliage look somewhat similar to red gums, but are straighter, more inclined to go upward rather than outward, and tend to have shaggy bark on the lower half of the trunk.

Tasmanian blue gums are suitable for the production of firewood in the Clare Valley and would have to be about the best tree for the production of polls because of their tendency to not fork and go straight up.

----- Photographs -----

The tree in the centre of this photo is a Tasmanian blue gum.

All these trees were planted about 1994 and photographed in October 2007.

Blue gums at 'Elysium', Armagh, in the Clare Valley,
S. Australia
There were about fifty large SA blue gums on Elysium when we bought the property. Here are two of them on a misty winter morning in 2000.

South Australian blue gum: Eucalyptus leucoxcylon

Blue gums are endemic to the Elysium area; they produce seedlings that, with protection from sheep, will grow quite sucessfully. One of their annoying habits is a tendency to grow any direction other than upward; it makes them slow to get out of the reach of the sheep.

Self sown blue gums
These blue gums are self-sown. All have grown from seeds dropped by one large old tree. January 2002.
A pest of SA blue gums is the parasite mistletoe. Older trees can become so heavily infested that they may die. For a time a government grant was available to pay a part of the cost of removing heavy infestations (2002).

SA blue gums are suitable for the production of firewood in the Clare Valley.

Tea trees

Spotted gum: Eucalyptus maculata

Certainly a difficult tree to grow compared to red gums and Tasmanian blue gums, but an exceptionally attractive one when mature, with a tall, straight trunk and near white smooth bark. It may be the frosts that are hard on the young trees.
----- Photograph -----
This spotted gum was planted about 1994 and photographed in January 2002.


Silky oak

Silky oak: Grevillea robusta

We planted perhaps forty of these around 1995; I'd guess that 1/2 are still living. Some were killed by sheep who find the bark very apatising, some died from some other cause; perhaps they needed more watering in their first summer.
----- Photographs -----
This is one of only two survivors on our 'big hill'. The wire-netting on the trunk protects the tree from being ring-barked by the sheep; some of the damage inflicted before the netting was put on can be seen. January 2002. Silky oak trunk

Paper barks, Tea-trees: Melaleuca

Fifty of these have been planted just above the high water mark of a dam, possibly brevifolia or acuminata. They have done well, but seem to be getting close to the end of their lives now, about seven years later.

Black tea-tree, moonah: Melaleuca lanceolata

Tea tree
Three Melaleuca lanceolata on the nature strip beside the Blyth road at Elysium; photographed January 2002. These were planted about 1994.
A number were planted in a fenced strip adjacent to the Blyth road; doing quite well.

They are an attractive tree. The blossoms are not spectacular.

Other trees

I've included in this section all those trees that are not native and don't produce anything generally termed either an edible fruit or nut. It is not really such a simple definition.

Carob: Ceratonia siliqua

St John's Bread is another name for the carob; referring to the edible seed pod. The carob is an attractive tree, and apparently the seed pods fall in the summer when there is little other stock food available. I've tried them; wouldn't like to eat them myself.

Young carobs might need to have their bark protected from sheep. I have had some nearly ring-barked. As noted elsewhere, ring-barking by sheep is more likely to be a problem near the tops of hills where sheep like to camp.

Carob trees at Elysium
These are on our 'big hill', looking toward the south. Vineyards planted about 1998 can be seen in the distance. Photographed January 2002.

Monterey pine: Pinus radiata

Some 2000 of these had been planted on Elysium before we bought the place in 1993. I think that I was told the trees were 10-12 years old at that time, so maybe planted from 1981-83. They are doing quite well.

I suspect that a part of the reason they were planted was to try to lower the water table. They seem to have achieved this. They would probably not be suitable where shallow groundwater was more saline.

Our pine plantation should be thinned out. I tried to get a commercial timber business interested in doing the thinning in return for the logs, which would have been suited for treating as posts, but found that no-one was interested. I can't imagine that growing radiata would be a viable economic proposition in the Clare Valley, unless it was done over a very large area, say 300ha or more.

They can be cut for use as poles, but if they are in contact with the soil they will quickly rot. If not in contact with the soil, but exposed to the weather, I have found pine wood can last anything from one year to about six years - depending, it seems, on whether it becomes infected by the dry-rot fungus early or later. Painting with creosote seems to give them some protection, probably stopping the fungal spores from getting started. The wood can be used as firewood, but tends to be corrosive if burned in an iron or steel stove; OK for bonfires.

English oak

English Oak: Quercus robur

Three were planted in the winter of 2000, one died near the beginning of the following summer. Of these at present, March 2002, one is strugling, one is doing well.

Three more were planted in the winter of 2001; two are still going in mid 2003.

They were put on low mounds, in or near a small gully, but they would suffer some root competition from adult gum trees that are only twenty metres or so from one of them.

----- Photograph -----
This tree was dug out of a creek in the winter of 1999 and planted in a pot. It was planted out in the following winter. Photographed January 2002.



On this page...

Section headings...
Fruit trees
Nut trees
Native trees
Other trees

General index...
Acacia callamifolia
Acacia notabilis
Acacia pendula
Acacia pycnantha
Apple trees
Apricot trees
Avocado trees
Bottlebrush trees
Brachychiton acerifolius
Bunya pine trees
Callitris columellaris
Casuarina stricta
Ceratonia siliqua
Cherry trees
Chestnut trees
Citrus trees
English oak
Eucalypt trees
Eucalyptus camaldulensis
Eucalyptus cladocalyx
Eucalyptus globulus
Eucalyptus leucoxcylon
Eucalyptus maculata
Feijoa trees
Ficus carica
Fig trees
Flame tree
Fruit trees
Grape mark
Guava trees
Gum trees
Loquat trees
Melaleuca lanceolata
Mulberry trees, black
Mulberry trees, white
Native pine
Native trees
Nut trees
Olea europaea
Olive trees
Other trees
Paper bark tree
Peach trees
Pear trees
Pecan trees
Persea americana
Persimmon trees
Pinus radiata
Pistachio trees
Planting native trees
Plum trees
Prunus armeniaca
Quercus robur
Quince trees
Red gum
Root competition
South Australian blue gum
Spotted gum
Stones for water conservation
Sugar gum
Tasmanian blue gum
Tree guard
Tree guard, mesh
Tunnel erosion
Walnut trees
Wattle, golden
Wattle, notable