My Journal

Five great trees for smaller gardens

Flickr: Jeff Sandquist

I’m a firm believer in the simple, natural beauty of trees and love to be around them whenever I can. Just because your plot is on the more modest side, don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t fit a tree in. There are lots of gorgeous, attractive, floral and even fruiting varieties that can be very happy in a small garden. Not only are ornamental trees beautiful to look at, they’re also great for providing food and shelter for all types of wildlife.

Many of the varieties I’ve chosen here have been given the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM), which means they’re excellent for UK gardens and consistently perform to a high standard. Helpful or what?!

Flowering dogwood (AGM) – Dogwood trees have colourful stems, large, pretty bracts of flowers and gorgeous ornamental berries that mean it’s a winner all year round. They’re really easy to look after, and prefer neutral to acidic soil and morning sunshine. If you’re planting out a young tree, make sure to keep it generously watered so that the roots get the moisture they need.

Acer griseum (AGM) – Acer or Maple trees are known for their beautiful, iconic foliage. In Japan, the tradition of watching Acer foliage change with the seasons is called momijigari – why not bring a bit of this natural beauty to your yard? This particular species is commonly known as the paperbark maple, because of its peeling, papery bark which adds amazing interest all year round. This is a slow-growing tree that’s happy in most soils apart from very wet, very dry or highly alkaline varieties. You could also try one of these beautiful trees in a large tub.

Prunus mume ‘Benichidori’ – Cherry trees are a really popular choice amongst gardeners on a smaller

scale. They’re elegant, colourful and delightfully showy in the springtime. As a family, cherry trees are particularly hardy and will do well in most UK gardens, even on thick clay soil – just make sure it’s sheltered from high winds in order to maximise the benefit of the blossom display. Benichidori is a beautiful flowering cherry with richly scented, bold pink blossoms in the month of April.

Crab apple ‘John Downie’ – Fancy trying your hand at making some home-grown crab apple jelly? John Downie is a great little tree that’s ideal for growing an edible crop, due to the lovely flavour and high pectin levels of its fruit. This lovely tree has brightly coloured foliage through until the autumn, and will even delight you with a bundle of white flowers in the spring.

Magnolia stellata – Magnolia trees are just beautiful, aren’t they? I love their blowsy blooms reaching up towards the sky. Magnolia like a sheltered position, ideally with full sun, but partial shade is also tolerated. Stellata is a gorgeous little tree with masses of white, star-shaped flowers with a lovely, subtle scent. It’s perfect for small gardens, or for growing in a large pot for a patio feature.


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