Buying plants is fairly easy but buying a tree (small) is more difficult and needs a little more thought. One of the main things to think about is shade. It’s a visa versa situation – are you choosing a tree for a particular place or a place for a particular tree. Here we are going to focus on a tree for a small garden. There are many to choose from which come in all shapes and sizes.
On our website we show the approximate height growth for each tree at maturity! In our gardens we are often faced with limited space. Therefore putting some thought into pre buying saves ending up with a tree being too tall a few years down the line.
Enjoy the natural shape (habitus)
When selecting a tree take into consideration the shape of the crown, height, width and its natural growing habit. The so-called columnar shaped or cone-shaped crowns take up little space. However, with vase-shaped trees the branches spread widely. The weeping shape has a completely different appearance but is not convenient if you want to walk underneath the tree.
It’s a good idea to look for one that gives you all year round interest with its flowers, foliage, shape or even its fruit. There is variety of dwarf or semi-dwarf trees which are ideal as they often require very little maintenance.
The possibilities of ‘manipulated’ shapes
Many trees can be bought as so-called ‘half standard’ or ‘standard’. This means that the tree is grafted onto a higher or lower rootstock. The height at which the crown starts will hereby be determined. This also applies to pollarded trees. The shape of the crown is also often manipulated. Many espalier and parasol shapes are cultivated that way. Pruning is another way to create desired shapes, in conifers for example.
Think about a dwarf fruit tree – the Pear, Cherry and the Apple – all three planted in pots on your patio will provide you with your very own orchard!
Flower, colour and flowering time have obvious ornamental values. In this category are ornamental apples (Malus), various Prunussens, Syringas and Magnolias that flower is spring.
Prunus Amanogawa – perfect for the smaller garden with its columnar growing habit, stunning blossom and subtle fragrance. Magnolias, always a welcome addition to the garden with such beautiful flowers. Dwarf Standard Lilac (syringa) with delightful scented flowers.
Japanese Maple with unique red leaves. If you want to attract butterflies into your garden consider a Butterfly Bush. If you enjoy flower arranging a Eucalyptus is a must for the garden. The foliage has an attractive silvery-bluish colour and a fine, aromatic fragrance which keeps gnats at bay. Or the Mahonia green all year round with yellow fragrant plumes in the winter. Also add Winter Jasmine to the list, cheerful yellow even in snow and frost.
Or how about a Dwarf Conifer – there’s the Japanese Dwarf Cyprus, a striking conifer with unusually shaped branches, a compact growing habit and does not mind sea breezes.
You will find one of the most beautiful colours with the Persian Silk Tree with its pinkish summer flowers and unusually coloured tripinnate sickle-shaped leaves. The Pink and White flowering Almond trees with beautiful double flowers. Mock Orange is one of the strongest ornamental shrubs with such a lovely smell and tolerates virtually any type of soil.
An evergreen tree has its advantages and disadvantages
Whether you want a tree that keeps or loses its leaves in winter is definitely worth considering. The advantages of evergreen trees such as conifers and Ilex species are that they are green all year round providing privacy, plus you are not bothered with fallen leaves. The disadvantage is that the evergreen crown will give more shadow in winter as a consequence of the sun being low in the sky. Furthermore, the tree has the same appearance all year round. The non-deciduous Fagus sylvatica (beech) is an exception to this.
Tall shrubs as an alternative to a tree
If the tree idea is not right for you consider the possibility of arborescent shrubs, such as a number of Cornus and Viburnum (Viburnum x bodnantense) varieties. For colour in the wintertime the Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ produces large pink umbels with a delightful scent.
Pruning is not the solution
In principle trees never have to be pruned. Therefore please take into account the natural habitus (shape) of the tree. Pruning will hardly ever improve the shape of the tree and topping a tree, which has grown too tall, will often do nothing to improve its appearance and is questionable whether it is useful. A tree has in fact often an underground root system that is as vast as the crown of the tree and a balance has to be found between the two. Only remove damaged, dead branches or crossing branches and often for fruit trees it is beneficial to keep an open crown by pruning.