Geoff’s top 5 trees for small gardens

Geoff’s top 5 trees for small gardens

Acer griseum
I planted my first Acer griseum when I was 14 and it is now a magnificent tree. Now I have a new garden it will be one of the first trees I plant again. It has a stocky, masculine trunk and branches and many seasons of beauty. Perhaps the highlight is the cinnamon, peeling bark which is at its best in winter. Then the spring foliage is bronzed before turning green and the autumn colour is breathtaking. Unlike its more delicate Japanese cousins, this is hardy, tough and can tolerate chalk. Slow growing and hardy it is perfect. Height 8m – eventually!

Crab apples
With beautiful pink and white flowers and long-lasting fruits that also feed the birds in winter, crab apples (malus) also serve as good pollinators for edible apples. They are usually tough and easy to grow and tolerate heavy clay soils. Choosing just one is difficult – my last garden was graced by the disease-resistant ‘Evereste’ with orange fruits. Many people like the yellow-fruited ‘Golden Hornet’ but that can get scab. For my new garden I have chosen a pair of red-fruited ‘Gorgeous’. Height 4m

Betula utilis var Jaquemontii
Most people plant birches for their beautiful bark and this variety is renowned for its peeling, silvery white stems. It has a stockier habit and larger leaves than the native birches but is far better in winter. Yes, you guessed it, I have one waiting to go into the new garden along with the dark brown, shiny-barked ‘Wakehurst Chocolate’. Height 8m

Sorbus ‘November Pink’
Sorbus encompass the wild mountain ash and the whitebeam with spectacular spring foliage. But they are best known for their profuse berries in autumn. These often provide rich pickings for wild birds, which reduces their ornamental value. ‘November Pink’ is unusual for its deep pink berries which are spectacular and don’t seem to be as palatable for birds so they last well into winter. A small, elegant tree with delicate foliage, it is perfect for even the smallest garden. Height 5m

Alnus incana ‘Aurea’
Few trees will thrive in wet soils but alders (alnus) usually thrive so this golden-leaved tree is useful as well as beautiful. The foliage is bright gold, better in sun, and the orange young twigs are a bright sight in winter too. It is colourful without being too ‘cutesy’ so is suitable for urban and rural gardens, making a fairly narrow tree when young, broadening with age. Height 8m

Post written by our resident gardening guru Geoff Stebbings from www.thebikinggardener.com

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