Small size, big feature
BIG, vigorous trees can become an expensive problem, especially in a small garden, so it’s wise to carry out a bit of research before buying.
However, with most suburban gardens there is great value planting one or two small trees, mainly because so many provide valuable cooling shade in summer.
Small trees are also grown for attractive spring or summer blossom, foliage, autumn colour and even brightly- coloured fruit or berries.
One of the easiest to grow in almost any soil is the deciduous spindle tree ( Euonymus
europaeus), named because the wood was once widely used for making spindles.
In Australia it grows to about 5m tall and withstands the most savage frosts.
In late autumn it produces superb displays of bright scarlet foliage that last well into winter before they fall.
At the same time the branches are festooned with clusters of pink and orange berries, an utterly beautiful combination. They are easily grown from seed.
Another that can be grown from seed is the 4m tall Portugal Laurel ( Prunus lusitanica) a glossy evergreen. With its dense, dark green, domed canopy and remarkable drought-resistance, it has a place in any small garden.
In spring it is covered with masses of creamy- white flowers, followed by glittering black clusters of berries.
The Nepal Strawberry ( Cornus capitata) presents an amazing sight in spring, when the round- headed canopy is covered with large, sulphur- coloured bracts.
They are followed by huge, bright- red strawberry- like fruit, which give the tree its common name.
Seeds germinate freely and, luckily for Tasmanians, these small trees thrive here, even in our coldest areas.
Most people are familiar with the common Rowan tree with its clusters of bright orangered fruit. Not so well known is the Chinese Rowans ( Sorbus hupehensis) and S. eburnea. This excellent, unobtrusive small tree thrives in sandy soils with perfect drainage.
The maple family is enormous, with more than 150 species and a seemingly endless stream of magnifi cent cultivars.
However, it is the many forms of the much smaller Japanese maples ( Acer japonicum and
A. palmatum) that play the most signifi cant role in small to medium gardens. Japanese maples are famous for their graceful, delicate foliage. In autumn and early winter, the brilliant shades of scarlet, crimson and rich reds are features at special festivals in Japan. Another popular maple is the Chinese variety
( A. davidii ssp. grosseri), which has extraordinarily beautiful grey- green bark marked with conspicuous, vertical white stripes. This tree thrives in all parts and rarely grows more than 4m tall.
However, it’s the golden form ( G. ‘ Sunburst’) which has really stolen the hearts of tree lovers everywhere. Growing to a height of roughly 4m and with a spread of about the same, the Golden Honey Locust stands out like a green-golden beacon in any landscape.
All these highly- attractive small trees are available for planting now, either from large pots or even bare- rooted. If buying advanced specimens, make sure they are firmly secured to supporting stakes after being planted.