How to Grow Trees in a Small Garden

The choice of tree for a small garden must be very carefully thought out. It is going to be a dominant feature and will shade other plants. Also, if it becomes too big it will be very difficult to dispose of. If in doubt it would be better not to plant a tree at all and just stick to shrubs.

There may be an existing tree which you will probably want to leave. A tree service specialist will remove any dangerous branches and thin it out a bit to let in more light.

Flowering cherries, crabs and Crataegus all produce medium-sized trees from about 4.5 m (15 ft). Choose one with an attractive shape that will look good in winter, such as Prunus subhirtella autumnalis or Mains ‘John Downie’. Steer clear of the stiff upright growth as in the ‘Kanzan’ cherry or, even worse, ‘Amanogawa’.

Grow Trees

The acers (maples) are excellent small trees to grow in limited space and most of them will grow on acid or alkaline soil. Some produce large trees but there are also smaller ones with a wide variety of shapes and leaf colours. Acer griseum is a slow growing tree reaching about 4.5 m (15 ft). The green leaves turn red in autumn and it has flaking orange-brown bark which provides winter interest.

Acer palmatum also grows about 4.5 m (15 ft) high and forms a rounded head. Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum’ has light green leaves, finely divided, and ‘Atropur-pureum’ has bronze-coloured leaves. They all produce beautiful autumn colour.

The magnolia is a small tree that will benefit from the shelter of an enclosed garden. Magnolia soulangiana is one of the most reliable. It grows about 3-4.5 m (10-15 ft) high and the lovely white tulip-shaped flowers with a pink tinge open in spring before the leaves. ‘Lennei’ has rose-purple blooms with a white inside.

If you don’t have enough room for this one you could grow Magnolia stellata which only reaches 2.5-3 m (8-10 ft) and is slow growing. The white flowers are star-shaped and fragrant.

Lilacs and laburnums both make small trees. If you want a laburnum choose the variety ‘Vossii’ which has long, drooping flowers and does not produce much seed. Rhus typhina, the stag’s horn sumach, is also popular in small gardens although the suckers can be a nuisance.

For leaf colour you could choose Gleditsia ‘Sunburst’, a small tree with golden leaves and a round head. Then there is Eucalyptus gunnii, which will grow into a large tree but can be cut back to the ground each spring, after the first year, to produce new growth.

If you want to try something a little more unusual why not grow Arbutus unedo, the strawberry tree. It grows about 4.5-6 m (15-20 ft) high and has dark green glossy leaves and small pink, bell-shaped flowers in autumn. The orange strawberry-like fruits appear at the same time, from the previous year’s flowers. ‘Rubra’ is the best form being more compact.

Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree) is a small spreading tree with heart-shaped leaves and pink pea-like flowers in spring followed by green seed pods. It likes a sunny sheltered spot.

Amelanchier canadensis is a lovely tree that grows well on moist soil. It does tend to produce suckers, though, and may need pruning to keep it in shape. Masses of white star-shaped flowers open in spring followed by edible black berries. The brilliant leaf colours provide an added bonus in autumn.

If you like weeping trees there is Betula pendula ‘Youngii’ which is a smaller tree than the silver birch. I find Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ (willow-leaved pear) a better shape as it looks more natural.

Figs can be grown successfully on a south-facing wall although they need quite a lot of attention in the form of training, pruning and thinning if they are to produce fruit.

Filed Under: General How To's


About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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