Choosing the best trees for a smaller garden

Trees for smaller gardens

Most gardens have room for a tree, but if there is room for only one in your garden, which tree should it be?

October is the best time to plant trees so if you are thinking about planting one and haven’t quite made up your mind, here’s a few ideas to help you choose.

Choosing your tree

As with all important partnerships in life, it is best not to fall in love with a tree from a picture, far better to get to know what it might be like to live with first  before you take the plunge.

Consider how quickly they grow, how tall they will end up and in what sort of shape.

Find out whether they have any annoying habits; Cherries’ roots frequently sucker, as do Robinias, and older, prominent Cherry roots often run along the surface ruining your lawn.

Others are just messy, dropping; leaves, sap, fruit, nuts and twigs, so avoid planting trees such as Hawthorn, Crab Apple and Mulberrys near paths or terraces, the latter drops loads of fruit that will leave black stains wherever they fall.

Also find out how reliable they will be; cherries are old at a mere 25 years of age, bits will drop off or die back and in many cases peg out shortly after.

Garden Design

Trees are a big asset in a garden; providing light and shade, food and habitats, blocking out eyesores and creating privacy, as well as providing a succession of seasonal interest.

As part of the garden design trees  provide focal points and vertical accents within the planting.

Trees positioned at the end of a path act as focal points enticing you into a garden to explore.

Without vertical accents within a garden design the planting can tend to look flat and listless with everything merging together, upright features such as trees, provide focus and energy, lifting the eyes upward and creating a sense of composition to the whole design.

Trees that earn their keep

Here are a few of my favourite trees suitable for smaller to medium size gardens. All these  earn their keep by providing several seasons of interest

with a combination of  attractive blossom, colourful fruit, autumn colour or striking  bark.


1. Paperbark maple Acer griseum, offers a great shape, superb autumn colour and shaggy, peeling, gingery bark that shows up best in winter.

It is a slow growing, hardy tree with, lovely peeling bark once established, interesting summer foliage and great autumn colour. The ornamental bark makes established specimens breathtaking all year round.

Acer griseum trees garden design Barnet

2.  Judas tree Cercis siliquastrum, produces pink pea-flowers that sprout straight from the branches and trunk, before the heart-shaped leaves appear. These are followed by red pods.

Judas tree Cercis siliquastrum trees garden design

3. Amelanchier lamarckii– possibly the best small-garden tree, it is tough, hardy and has masses of white spring flowers, followed by fluttery leaves that are translucent pink but quickly turn green and then red in the autumn, in June small maroon fruit appear that are loved by birds.

AmelanchierLamarckii trees garden design st albans

4. Himalayan Birch Betula utilis var. Jacquemontii

Because their bark looks good all year, Birches are splendidly ornamental, they have catkins in the spring which the birds love and have wonderful autumn leaves.

The Himalayan Birch is a medium-sized tree with chalk-white papery bark that peels in bands to reveal a new skin in warm shades of cream or pink buff, distinctively marked with horizontal dashes.

The leaves are dark green, with paler undersides that cause the tree to shimmer when stirred by a breeze. Buttery yellow in the autumn, some leaves turn toffee-coloured as they fall. Catkins abound in the spring.

Plant singly as a focal point or, in groups of three. On frosty winter days the white bark and architectural shape, creates a dramatic skeletal silohouette.


Betula utilis jaquemontii trees Harpenden garden design

 5. Acer palmatum ‘Ozakazuki’

A compact Japanese maple with brilliant orange-scarlet autumn colour.

Acer Ozakazuki trees Berkhamsted garden design

6. Mountain Ash Sorbus vilmorinii

Mountain ash forms a compact tree with spring flowers, attractive foliage and autumn berries.

It is a very neat tree,with ferny foliage and berries that change colour the wrong way round — from red to pink and then white.


Sorbus vilmorinii trees Radlett garden design

7.  Callery Pear Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’, forms a narrow, upright column and is clad in wonderful pear blossom in spring, with good foliage that colours up well in autumn.

Pyrus Chanticleer trees London garden design

Visit gardens to see trees in the flesh to appreciate their height and size;

Capel Manor Gardens in Enfield

and Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucester

will both give you plenty of ideas and inspiration.