Many large trees were brought down in our district during the strong westerly winds that followed the deluge of rain in May and a resident asked The Village Pump if there are ‘wind-resistant trees’. This proved to be a very tricky question, sparking much debate, but we believe the short answer to that question is ‘no’, especially if the ground is totally sodden and resembles thick soup. In these extreme conditions, almost any tree could topple!

However, there are a few characteristics of trees to consider when planning your garden, particularly in areas prone to strong winds:

  • Trees with open foliage, such as she-oaks, are likely to withstand strong winds better than those with dense foliage. They also help to break up and slow down the wind flow.
  • In general, coastal species are likely to be more wind tolerant. Look for species that grow right on the coast but range inland too.
  • Deep-rooted trees are likely to do better in strong winds than shallow-rooted ones (eg. native hibiscus are very prone to blowing over). Check with your nursery about root structure when buying trees.
  • Lower growing trees are less likely to fall over than tall ones.
  • Trees with a ‘lollipop shape’ (long trunk with foliage at the top, such as Kauri Pine or Bumpy Ash) are more likely to blow over than those with foliage retained closer to the ground, such as Hoop Pine.

The way you lay out the trees in your garden is also very important. Trees planted on a westerly or southerly aspect are likely to cop a heavy battering when the westerlies roar through. Consider planting a windbreak on the south-west side of your yard. Counter-intuitively, this should not be a solid wall of vegetation (eg. tall hedge), because this creates severe wind turbulence behind it. Instead, use a range of sizes of plants, perhaps beginning with grasses and small shrubs in front, with larger shrubs and small trees behind, with a row of taller trees (if required) to complete the windbreak. Leave some small gaps in the break and use a mix of open foliaged and denser foliaged species.

She-oaks are a good choice for a windbreak

None of this will guarantee that trees won’t fall in severe conditions, but it may give a better chance of reducing the impact of winds in your garden.

Ken Perkins and Peter Storer