Top trees for small gardens
Trees reach ultimately at least 23ft (7m) tall and although most “garden trees” attain 30ft (10m) or more at maturity, there are many examples that stay smaller. Most gardens can find space for the smallest trees, under 30ft high at maturity. Here are three excellent examples: Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ AGM, with large heart-shaped purple leaves, offers rich autumn colour; Cornus kousa ‘Miss Satomi’ AGM, with wondrous white early summer flowers followed by red dimpled fruits, reaches 18ft (6m) height and spread. Sorbus vilmorinii AGM, 15ft (5m) height and spread, has delicate foliage with cream flowers followed by clusters of red berries that fade to white. A valuable subsection of small trees are fastigiate (upright or columnar in form). They cast little shade and have a small “footprint”: Sorbus ‘Autumn Spire’ AGM, 24ft x 12ft (8m x 4m), has white flowers, yellow berries and fiery autumn foliage. Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ AGM is deservedly popular being reliably narrow at 26ft x 13ft (8m x 4m) and carrying masses of semi-double pale pink flowers. Malus ‘Adirondack’ AGM, 26ft x 13ft (8m x 4m), has white spring flowers and little red crab apples in autumn. For good ornamental value, trees with spring flowers and autumn colour In tight spots, large shrubs can fulfil many functions – shelter, privacy, wildlife benefit and some height – although it may not be possible to walk under their canopy. One commonly used is Buddleja alternifolia AGM, with abundant summer flowers, which can be trained with a single stem into a 9ft (3m) “tree”. Japanese maples are the best all-round performers of the large shrubs, the upright Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’ AGM, for instance, can reach 13ft (4m). magnolias have a dedicated avenue, and there are many mature ornamental trees that allow growers to assess habit and size. Bluebell Nursery in Leicestershire sells trees, mostly unusual ones, not least at RHS flower shows, and also grows its trees in an arboretum on heavy Midland clay. Visitors can see a huge range of trees growing and get a firsthand idea of habits and space requirements. As well as being a remarkable coastal garden, Howick Hall in Northumberland has an extensive arboretum, just 10 years old, with an amazingly rich collection of over 11,000 trees from all over the world, grown from legally harvested wild seeds planted in geographic groups. The trees are a little young to show full growth habit and many might not be readily available, but for the tree lover this is an inspiring collection.
Autumn riches: trees provide privacy and colour in small spaces