Fleming's Guidelines for Assessing Advanced Trees

Fleming’s Nurseries are passionate about and dedicated to growing the very best trees for Australian home and urban environments.

Not only do we work to introduce the most suitable and best varieties (both exotic and native) to Australia, but we trial them, work on them and develop the best growing techniques to ensure all the trees that leave our nursery will be the best trees possible.

Superior quality advanced* trees do not happen by chance. They are grown following a stringent set of techniques and methods, by trained horticulturalists, who understand each tree species.

Of course, not all trees develop in the same manner and cannot be judged by a single ‘standard’ or a single set of criteria, however, there are a series of attributes of a tree which will help to identify a quality specimen over a poor one.

It is important that anyone assessing a tree has a good level of knowledge and understands the unique characteristics of that species or cultivar.

Fleming's trees are produced to meet the highest of international standards – so if you buy a Fleming's grown tree you can be secure in the knowledge it is among the best in the world.

A Healthy Tree

Is the tree healthy?

  • The tree should be free from significant infestation of pests and diseases.
  • Appearance should be appropriate for the season and the cultivar (for example a tree should not be presenting autumn foliage in spring, however an oak tree may hold onto its brown foliage through winter).
Staked Tree

Staked Tree

Unstaked Tree

Unstaked Tree

Is the tree self-supporting?

  • A quality advanced tree should not rely on a stake to keep them upright. For example if a stake is removed from the tree it should not ‘flop’ to the ground but should stand independently.
    Note: nearly all young trees, when a stake is removed, will ‘relax’ to a point, but as a rough rule of thumb, if a tree ‘relaxes’ past a 45 degree angle, it should be rejected.
  • Don’t be confused by references to ‘stem taper’, ‘calliper ratios’ – while these are very important, the tree will naturally meet this criteria if it is grown to be self-supporting.

Fagus Tricolour

Pyrus Chanticleer


Is there a central leader?

  • A quality advanced ornamental, deciduous or native tree should demonstrate a good straight trunk to about 2 -2.5 metres (variety dependent), unless it has been grown for a special purpose (for example - a hedge, pleached, espaliered, a standard, or a weeper).
  • All trees, regardless of whether they are natural central leaders or not, should have at least a straight trunk up to 2 – 2.5m to allow for ‘line of sight’ pruning.
  • Depending on the cultivar, this straight trunk should extend to the top of the tree (some cultivars are an exception such as the Zelkova serrata species which have a straight central leader to about 2m, then form an evenly spread branch structure).

Does the tree show a balanced structure?

  • This can vary greatly between species and their cultivars. As a result a good knowledge of each cultivar is required to assess the balance appropriate to the specific tree under assessment.
  • As a very general guideline a ‘crown’ or ‘canopy’ of the tree should be roughly symmetrical.
  • Any tree, where the majority of crown growth, falls to one side should be rejected.
  • To understand the difference between cultivars of Ulmus, Gleditsia, or Brachychiton that differ as young trees, consult with an expert from Fleming’s to take you through the appropriate characteristics of each tree.
  • A quality advanced specimen should not have branches that are the same or very similar in caliper (thickness) to the central leader (trunk), below 2.5m, above this point, the tree will start develop the ‘natural’ form, ie Zelkova, Melia, which are definitely not central leaders and will have many similar sized branches and the ‘central’ trunk becomes less defined with age.



Well formed root system

Fleming's - The Tree Specialists

Is there a well-formed root system?

  • It is important that the tree does not demonstrate heavy circling roots within the root-ball, specifically in the top 1/3 of the ball.  Most trees will develop good root structure if slicing and repotting occurs at appropriate periods of the trees development.
  • Here at Fleming’s Nurseries, through the whole growing life of the young tree, including Fleming's Advanced Trees, we work to a strict guideline on root pruning and re-potting to ensure high quality, well-structured root systems are promoted through each stage of a trees development.
    Note: Australian horticulture leads the world in the understanding and handling of the ‘below ground’ component of trees.

Fleming's - the tree specialists

Fleming’s are in the unique position to have control over the final outcomes of our trees by working with our trees through all stages of production:

  • We propagate our trees,
  • We grow them as small trees,
  • We grow them as advanced trees,
  • And, via our Landscape Services division, we plant and maintain them in the landscape.

Trees are who we are.


*A Fleming’s advanced tree is generally sold in either a pot, bag or air-pruned container and with a volume of 45 litre or greater.