Tony Dickerson answers your questions
QCan you suggest some small trees to 8m (26ft) with attractive bark? Sue Holman, by email
AIf you’re looking for an evergreen, then choice is very limited, unfortunately. Snow gum ( Eucalyptus
pauciflora niphophila) has peeling, cream and silvery-green bark with silvery, evergreen leaves, pinkish young shoots and white summer flowers (H: 5m (16½ft), S: 3m (10ft) in 20 years.
However, there’s a much wider selection of deciduous trees with attractively coloured or textured bark, which often display good autumn colour. Acer griseum (paperbark maple) has flaking, cinnamon-brown bark and some Japanese maples have attractive young shoots, such as Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, with coral-red branches in winter. Most Himalayan birches are ultimately too large for smaller gardens, but Betula utilis jacquemontii ‘Moonbeam’, with peeling white bark, is one of the most compact. On acid soils, Stewartia malacodendron or S. ovata are a good choice with peeling mottled bark and creamy white flowers, 5-10cm (2-4in) across in midsummer. Now’s a good time to plant trees, provided the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged. It’s important to prepare the ground well by loosening the soil to a depth equivalent to the height of the tree’s rootball and over a wide area to eliminate compaction and improve drainage. On heavy clay or sandy soils, incorporate organic matter.
Soak bare-rooted trees for 30 minutes prior to planting and water containerised plants well before removing them from their pots. Tease out the roots and place in a planting hole no deeper than the roots, but three times the diameter of the root system. Position the first flare of roots level with the soil surface.
Refill the planting hole carefully, placing soil between and around all the roots to eliminate air pockets. Firm the soil gently and water in.
It’s important to water these new plants in dry spells during the first two years and keep the area weed free.
Eucalyptus pauciflora niphophila is a striking evergreen and doesn’t get too large
Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ in hot red