Choosing the right ornamental tree for your garden
Trees are a vital part of the garden landscape, bringing structure, height and shade as well as beautiful colour, scent and even fruit; many have something of interest throughout the year. Once established, trees are low maintenance plants needing little attention from us. There are now hundreds of different trees to choose from that are the ideal size tree for any garden. There are deciduous and evergreen species in all shapes and sizes, but before deciding which tree to plant there are a number of important factors to consider.
What tree should I plant?
Most modern gardens are small, so it is important to choose the right tree for your space. When considering 'what tree should I plant', first think about what you want it for. Do you want it as a feature in its own right - with blossom, fruit, attractive autumn colour or bark? Do you want it to bring welcome shade to a bright south-facing spot, or to attract birds and wildlife to a city plot? And would you prefer the year-round foliage and interest of evergreens, or the gorgeous autumn colours of so many deciduous trees?
Always consider height and spread before choosing which tree to plant. Think about how it's going to look in 10, even 20 years' time and bear this in mind, especially if you want it near the house. A good tip for successfully choosing the ideal tree size for your garden is to remember that the spread of a tree is reflected by the root system below the surface. Decide where you want the tree to go and take its spread into account before making your final decision. Making sure you don't plant it too close to your house or other buildings is vital, but it is also worth working out where its shade will be cast as this can have a huge effect on your garden too.
Remember too that even a small tree may well eventually reach a height of 8m, and if this is too much for your garden consider a smaller, weeping variety instead. Finally, research has shown that the ideal tree size to choose when buying your tree is the smaller sized whip or maiden. It is now recognised that these smaller tree sizes establish faster and more successfully than larger and costlier trees.
When considering flowering trees it is worth noting that most of the flowering trees come into their own in spring, with the ubiquitous cherry a sure sign that this most welcome season has finally arrived. If, however, billowing clouds of blossom aren't your thing, there are many other lovely spring-flowering trees perfect for the smaller garden. The elegant cornus kousas, dwarf magnolias or the lipstick pink Judas tree (cercis siliquastrum) would all happily take pride of place in a lawn or sunny border.
By the time summer arrives, flowering trees are less common but those that are in flower, such as later magnolias, the beautifully fragranced pineapple broom and the fascinating Koelreuteria, all help to bring an extra dimension to an already colourful garden. There are also flowering trees in bloom as late as November and as early as February, so if you only have room for one flowering tree, pinpoint the time of year that is most important to you or better still look for one that has something happening for more than one season.