A tree for every small garden.
I’ve landscaped large gardens, small gardens, and even what could be called micro-gardens. Yet in every single one I have found the right type of tree to plant for my clients. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is a tree for every garden. And January is perhaps a better month to start planting than you might suspect.In fact, one tool I thought I might develop is a matrix for homeowners to work out what type of tree would best suit an area of limited size. There are a number of considerations that immediately spring to mind, and that should each be addressed before any final decision is made.
- How close should the tree be to the property?
In a small garden, then the tree is likely to be planted close to the house. Some species, if left to their own devices, will grow too big and their roots too deep, which can disrupt the foundations of the house and lead to the dreaded subsidence. One quick rule of thumb is to remember that tree roots can spread up to three times the height of the tree, although it must be remembered that the farther away the root is from the tree itself, the smaller it will be.If the tree is to be pruned and kept quite small, then this shouldn’t worry home owners too much. The roots will be limited if the height and size of the tree is kept in control.
- When would you like to see it in colour?
This is all down to personal choice of course. And the angles of the garden and the light need to be considered here to get the most out of your space. For example, Dogwood catching the winter sun on an overcast afternoon is exceptionally dramatic, with a brilliant red lustre that makes it seem unnatural. Another tree that is suitable for smaller areas are cherry trees, and the winter cherry, blossoming from November to March, can be a lovely sight against the austere colours of winter.
- Deciduous or evergreen?
This isn’t just a colour issue. It depends upon what you want the tree to do and if you want it to shield your garden from overlooking neighbours or even to provide cover for wildlife. Probably the most ubiquitous tree I see on my travels is the Leyland Cypress, the Leylandii. These trees have foliage all year around, and being fast growing are quite suitable for providing a barrier between gardens. Their dense foliage is popular with greenfinches too, but they should not be planted close to a wall or structure – it is advised to keep a bare minimum of a metre’s distance from any structure. They can also grow very high if they are not kept pruned: in some cases they can reach 35 metres in height, and this can have potentially serious legal repercussions if the neighbour’s garden is blocked by the tree. (In a famous legal case, a homeowner won an action against their neighbour for blocking their sunlight, and the Leylandii had to be cut down – it was a 24 year long struggle!)
- Soil properties – what tree would be suited to your area?
The soil type should be considered when you are thinking of planting a tree in order to give it the best chance. If you live in a clay rich area, as is much of Worcestershire (or Chromic Vertic Luvisols for those interested!), then birch trees can do well. The silver birch is a lovely specimen, instantly recognisable by its bark, and one that won’t grow heavy branches later on in its life which could cause concern in a small garden area. Crab apples are another tree that suit clay ground, offering up a spectacle of colour with its pink and white flowers in late spring.
Using these guidelines to help make a decision should give you a good idea as to what species of tree would work well in your garden. Once you have a list of candidates, then it is really down to personal choice as to what you like to try.
As a professional landscaper however, I remain committed to my observation that I do believe there is a tree for every garden.