Season: Spring

Choosing trees for your garden

This page will focus on tips and advice in selecting small trees for your garden, next month we will look at planting tips. The factors to consider in choosing a suitable tree can be divided into 2 broad categories, firstly the environmental conditions and secondly the tree characteristics.

Environmental Conditions

Different trees favour particular environments to enable optimal growth and a healthy full canopy for you to enjoy.

Firstly the soil condition needs to assessed, the ideal soil for most trees needs to be a well balanced mix of clay and sand that drains well but can retain moisture. The soil texture can be changed with the use of organic matter such as composted manure with coarse sand or clay to alter drainage characteristics. Whether the soil is acid or alkaline also determines tree species you can grow; a pH test kit can easily be purchased to assess your soil. For acid soils adding lime can reduce the acidity but will need renewal over the years to ensure the artificial change is maintained. I suggest that in most cases it is best to work with the natural acidity of your garden in choosing a tree.

Potted tree

Secondly you need to look at the shade conditions in selecting a tree; many species thrive in direct sunlight where this position encourages growth and in some cases enhances variegated foliage colours through the year. Where trees are grown in shady locations quite often the foliage has less variation and interest for you. If you would like to plant a tree to create a shady area then the tree may need space to develop a breadth rather than height.

Armed with your knowledge of soil and light conditions you can now proceed to the garden centre to consider the tree characteristics.

Tree Characteristics.

Trees come in all shapes and sizes as well as deciduous and evergreen forms, so quite often the choices can feel a little daunting. Take your time in selecting your tree, here are some guiding questions to have in mind as you deliberate:-

Tree view
  1. Do you want the tree as a screen or a specimen feature? Evergreens produce an all year round screen but a mixed tree screen provides interest through the seasons, specimen trees can be a real feature in your garden drawing eyes to particular locations.
  2. What shape of tree would you like? The broad range of tree shapes extend from columnar to rounded, conical and weeping forms. It is always a good idea to look at a prospective tree and think ahead to the size it will achieve at maturity. For example, a columnar tree often suits small garden spaces as a focus point whereas weeping trees often have a wider very ornamental attractive form.
  3. Does the tree integrate into the rest of the garden? Some trees integrate better with particular garden layouts which can vary from for example a Japanese style to heathers/low level borders or shrubs and fruit tree styles; even a garden laid to mainly lawn should favour particular trees.
  4. Do you have specific tree features you favour? These factors include preferences for foliage colours in autumn, spring blossom colours, yielding fruits in late summer or interesting bark colours and textures.
  5. These tips should help you in deciding how to select the ideal tree for your garden, we always advise customers to take plenty of time in this decision making process, planting a tree is a long term committment.