Small is beau­ti­ful

For those who have only a small gar­den, trim trees can be just the ticket, says Han­nah Stephen­son

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS -

Small trees are in high de­mand, with sup­pli­ers in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion in com­pact va­ri­eties in­clud­ing crab ap­ples, which bear beau­ti­ful spring flow­ers, and Vos­sii labur­nums, with their up­right forms and disease-re­sis­tant char­ac­ter­is­tics. Your tree needs to earn its space in a small gar­den, so look for one with year-round in­ter­est. A tree that blos­soms for a week in spring, but then looks or­di­nary for the rest of the year re­ally won’t do.

Here are five good ex­am­ples to con­sider... 1. Ame­lanchier Ame­lanchiers have fea­tured heav­ily in gar­den shows in the past cou­ple of years, with de­sign­ers dis­play­ing their value as choice trees for con­fined spa­ces.

Ame­lanchier lamar­ckii (10m x 12m), the snowy Me­spilus, is of­ten grown as a multi-stemmed show­stop­per but can also be trained as a light stan­dard. Starry white flow­ers cover its branches in spring, at the same time as its bronze fo­liage is open­ing, while in au­tumn the small leaves of­ten turn to fiery red and yel­low.

They do best in acid soils, so plant them in er­i­ca­ceous com­post. These tall, slen­der shrubby trees make great sub­tle screen­ing. 2. Flow­er­ing dog­wood Flow­er­ing dog­woods are long-sea­son stal­warts, their star-shaped blooms ap­pear­ing in late spring, fol­lowed by fan­tas­tic leaf colours of reds and oranges in au­tumn, and straw­berry-like fruits which per­sist into win­ter.

Good va­ri­eties in­clude Cor­nus kousa (7m x 5m), which bears spread­ing branches smoth­ered in creamy white blos­som in early sum­mer, deep-pink bracts in late spring and or­ange leaves in au­tumn, and Cor­nus mas (5m x 5m), the Cor­nelian cherry, a small spread­ing va­ri­ety which comes into its own in win­ter, when clus­ters of yel­low flow­ers smother the bare branches. 3. Labur­num x wa­tereri ‘Vos­sii’ These el­e­gant, small trees, which pro­duce long chains of bril­liant yel­low flow­ers in May and June, are per­fect for train­ing over an arch or per­gola when branches are young and pli­able. Gar­den­ers can re­move the poi­sonous seed­pods to help im­prove flow­er­ing next year. Just be aware that all parts of the plant are very poi­sonous, so this is not a child-friendly choice. 4. Crab ap­ple (malus) Flow­er­ing crab ap­ples (in­set left) pro­duce a dou­ble-whammy of eye-catch­ing blos­soms in spring, fol­lowed by at­trac­tive fruits in au­tumn. A good va­ri­ety is ‘Ever­este’ (8m x 8m, but slow-grow­ing), which bears a puff of white and pink fra­grant flow­ers in spring, which are a mag­net to bees, fol­lowed by or­ange-yel­low fruits, which can be made into jam.

The slow-grow­ing Ja­pa­nese crab, Malus Flori­bunda, is also less vig­or­ous, its hor­i­zon­tal branches cov­ered in crim­son buds in the spring, which open to blush-pink and white scented blooms. The ad­van­tage of malus is that you can con­trol their size and shape, like a fruit­ing ap­ple. 5. Acer pal­ma­tum (Ja­pa­nese maple) These stun­ning stars of the show grow equally well in pots, if you only have a court­yard space and need to keep their size in check, or in the ground to cre­ate colour and add struc­ture to a scene.

Mix a com­bi­na­tion in dif­fer­ent pots to cre­ate a range of stun­ning con­trast­ing au­tumn colours, in­clud­ing Acer pal­ma­tum ‘Blood­good’, which bears rich red-pur­ple fo­liage from spring to au­tumn, Acer pal­ma­tum ‘Sango-kaku’, whose leaves open or­ange-yel­low in spring, and Acer pal­ma­tum var. dis­sec­tum, whose finely cut mid-green leaves turn golden in au­tumn.

Plant them in full sun and try to avoid re­ally ex­posed ar­eas, where their del­i­cate fo­liage may be dam­aged by icy winds.

STUN­NING: A com­bi­na­tion of Ja­pa­nese maples

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