Planting a tree is the joyous responsibility of anyone who has the opportunity to do so. Human and animal life depend on trees for oxygen, trees are our life line, our life support system. Yet trees are being cut down all over the world at an alarming rate -an area the size of a football pitch disappears every minute — and an enormous amount of the wildlife that is dependent on them faces extinction. This tragic and unnecessary destruction of the forests is upsetting the balance of nature, so it is all the more important that those of us who can plant a tree do so.
Ornamental Trees and Shrubs for Small Gardens
If your garden is very small, do not choose a tree that grows to more than 15 ft (4.5 m).
If your garden is about 60 ft (18 m) long, don’t choose a tree that grows to more than 20 ft (6 m).
If your garden is more than 100 ft (30 m) long, you can easily grow a tree that grows to more than 35 ft (10 m).
When choosing a tree, check the size of the spread of the tree as well as its height as it can sometimes be as wide as it is high.
Acer japonicum ‘Vitifolium’ (Maple). Grows slowly to 20ft (6in), spread 10 ft (3 m). Soft green leaves which turn a wonderful crimson in the autumn.
Acer palmatum Atropurpureum (Japanese Maple). This shrub has leathery purple leaves. Only grows to 3 ft (90 cm). Ideal for planting in a large container in a sheltered corner.
Acer palmatum Aureum (Maple). Slow growing. Grows to 15ft (4.5m). Spread 8ft (2.5m). Yellow/ green leaves turning rich crimson in the autumn.
Amelanchier lamarckii. Grows to 10ft (3m). Spread 10ft (3m). White spring flowers, black berries and bright red autumn leaves.
Arbutus unedo (tree). Large shrub or small tree growing to 15— 20ft (4.5-6 m). Spread 10 ft (3 m). An with dark green leaves, white flowers in October/November and ¬like fruits at the same time.
Buddleia alternifolia (Butterfly Bush). Amazing sweet aroma from soft pendulous lavender blue flowers in the summer. Height 15ft (4.5m). Spread 15ft (4.5m)-20ft (4.5-6m). Narrow pale green leaves. A wonderful aromatic bush.
Catalpa bignoniodes (Indian Bean Tree). Grows 20-30ft (6-9m). Spread 15-20ft (4.5-6m). Bright green flat heart shaped leaves. Yellow and white flowers in July followed by long slim seed pods. A difficult tree to get established. Best in South East.
Corylus avellcnia (Hazel cob-nut). Grows to 20ft (6 m). Spread 15ft (4.5m). Mid green leaves. Yellow male catkins 2in (5cm) long in February.
Cotinus and coggyria ‘Royal Purple’. This shrub has dark wine coloured leaves which go red in autumn. Also grows to about 10 ft (3 in) and is another lovely shrub. They look most attractive side by side.
Eucalyptus niphophila (Alpine snowgum). Not for a small space. Extremely hardy. (Beware, some Eucalyptus can grow to 50ft (15m)). Cut back constantly once or twice a year if you do not want a 30- 40ft (9- 12m) tree in 10 years! Delightful grey/green evergreen leaves. Trouble free, extremely hardy, easy to grow, prefers sunny position. Lovely leaves for cutting for flower arrangements.
Fraxinus excelsior ‘Jaspidea’ (Ash). Grows to 25ft (15m) or more. Golden yellow leaves in spring turning to yellow green leaves in summer then yellow autumn colour.
Cileditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’ (Honey Locust). Light golden leaves, turning clear yellow in autumn. Height 18-30ft (5.5-9m). Spread 12-15ft (3.5-4.5m). Wonderful ‘glowing’ tree.
Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair tree). Primitive slow growingtree. Height 30ft (9m). Spread 10 ft (3 m). Small leathery fan shaped pale green leaves in spring, turning darker green in summer, then golden in autumn. Most interesting tree, seldom seen in the average garden perhaps for fear it will get too big.
Koelreuteria paniculata (Pride of India). Grows to 10-18ft (3-5.5m). Spread 8- 10ft (2.5-3m). Mid green leaves up to 14 in (35 cm) long. Yellow flowers 6- 12 in (15-30cm) long in July which give a wonderful yellow haze, like mimosa in full bloom.
Laburnum Watereri Vossii (Golden Rain). Grows to 15-20ft (4.5-6m). Spread 10-15ft (3-4.5m). Yellow flowers tapering from 10-20iu (25-50cm) long in May. The leaves, twigs and particularly the seeds are poisonous, but this variety produces Jew seeds. Most attractive when in flower.
Liriodendron tulipifera Aureomarginatum (Tulip tree). Grows to 18-25ft (5.5- 1.5m). Spread 10- 15ft (3-4.5m). Delightful tree with yellow tulip type flowers in the autumn which do not appear before the tree is 10 years old. My tulip trees have been fairly slow growing, but these trees are not for a small garden.
Magnolia. This is one of the most attractive groups of trees and shrubs for a small sheltered garden, and personally I would give it priority above most other trees along with Gleditsia Sunburst, rowan and some oj the ashes.
Magnolia soulangeana. A delightful spreading bush. Grows to 15ft (4.5m). Spread 10-15ft (3-4.5m). Large waxy white flowers with pinkish base when in bud. Flowers open in April before the mid green leaves have unfurled.
Magnolia grandiflora. Owing to their beautiful flower, all magnolias are impressive. The evergreen Magnolia grandiflora with shiny dark green leaves and waxy cream flowers in July/September is splendid and imposing in a small or large garden, preferably against a wall. None of the magnolias grow very tall although 1 have seen this species in Provence standing 50 ft (15m) tall.
Malus floribunda (Flowering Crab Apple). Grows to 12-15ft (3.5-4.5m). Spread 10-15ft (3-4.5 m). Rounded compact branches with mid green leaves. Carmine red buds open into pale pink blossoms in May. Yellow fruits.
Malus ‘Golden Hornet’. Grows to 15- 18ft (4.5-5.5m). Spread 10-15ft (3-4.5m). Pale green leaves. White blossoms May, and lots of striking yellow crab apples in autumn.
Prunus lusitanica (Portugal Laurel). Grows 15-20ft (4.5-6m) by 15-20ft (4.5-6m). Glossy dark green leaves with red stalks. Creamin June. Fruit which turn black. Can be trained up into a small tree.
Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ (Pear Tree). Lovely shaped small weeping tree. Grows to 8- 10 ft (2.5-3m). Spread 6-8ft (1.8-2.5m). Silver grey willow-like leaves. Pretty white flowers in April. Makes a good feature inand is easily pruned into a compact shape.
Salix elaeagnos (Hoary willow). Large shrub. Grows to 10ft (3m). Spread 8 ft (2.5m). Narrow green leaves. Yellow male catkins \\in (4cm) long in April.
Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’ (Whitebeam). Height 15-20ft (4.5-6m). Spread 10- 15ft (3-4.5m). Lovely downy grey/green white leaves which when they flutter in the wind look silver.
Sorbus aucuparia (Mountain Ash). Grows to 15-25ft (4.5-7.5m). Spread 8-12ft (2.5-3.5m). Mid green leaves with grey undersides. White flowers in May and June. Orange to red berries in July which ripen in August. Not suitable for shallow alkaline soils.
Sorbus sargentiana (Mountain Ash). Grows to 10- 18ft (3-5.5m). Spread 8- 12ft (2.5-3.5m). Mid green leaves turning to dazzling red in autumn. White flowers in May. Orange-red berries in September. Exciting tree.
Primus cerasifera nigra (Ornamental). Height 25ft (7.5m). Spread 25ft (7.5m). Purple leaves, white flowers in the spring. In a garden where there is room for several ornamental trees any of the purple leafed trees make a good and interesting contrast. Many people do not like their almost black leaves, but if there is room for several trees this tree certainly adds variety to the space. Easily pruned to form a compact head.
Apart from correct planning and construction, one of the most important ingredients of a successful garden is careful planting. Good planting makes all the difference between a tree thriving or dying. A tree dying is an expensive and disappointing loss. But if a tree or shrub is planted correctly, it should flourish, live up to expectations and reward you with the pleasure and sense of achievement that goes with watching something you have planted grow. If a tree or shrub is badly planted, it will never catch up in size with one that is planted properly.
Choosing the Correct Tree for the Site
Once you have decided upon a spot (where there is enough space and light for a tree), it is important that you choose a tree that is suitable for the site. Time and thought should also be given to the effect you wish the tree to create: countrified, elegant, severe, dramatic and so on.
Many big trees like sycamore and lime are totally unsuitable for: their leaves do not make good and they have bad habits such as a sticky aphid excretion in summer and greedy roots. Also the fully grown canopy of these trees can be overpowering in a small space, throwing the garden into shade and taking all the moisture from the ground.
Trees in containers in the garden centre look so small and insignificant, it is difficult to imagine that some of them may grow to 60-100 ft (18-30 m). Do check before buying a tree how big it will grow and if it is suitable for your space. I have been growing some oak trees in pots from acorns, and they are still no more than 6 in (15 cm) high. If you plant them in a small space not knowing what size an oak tree can grow to, your grandchildren might be left with a tree that would completely overpower the area and they would have no option but to cut it down.
The same goes for willows. Some willows grow very big indeed and drink gallons and gallons of water a day. If there isn’t sufficient rainfall a willow tree will draw its moisture from under the brickwork of a house. There have been cases, especially on clay sub-soil, of thirsty willow roots near houses cracking the foundation of the brickwork in their efforts to draw out all available moisture.
The crown of a tree is as important as the height. Malus floribunda, the crab-, the popular spring flowering kind, has a very broad bushy crown, but does not grow very tall, yet it casts a wide shade. Another crab-apple, Malus tschonoskii, has an upright crown and can get very tall (35 ft/over 10 m) but casts very little shade. The same applies to flowering : Prunus Tai Haku grows very wide and Prunus hillieri Spire grows very tall, so both spread and height should be taken into consideration.
So obviously choosing the right tree for the space is important. There are a great many lovely trouble-free ornamental trees ideal for small gardens. But give time and thought to the effect you wish the tree to create. Hawthorn will look countrified, magnolia is appropriate to a smart town garden and Paulownia is spectacular when in flower, but grows to 25-30 ft (7.5-9 m) and is not for a tiny garden.
If you wish to restrict the size of a tree, plant it in a large tub at least 3 ft 6 in (just over a metre) deep and 2 ft 6 in (75 cm) wide in the same way as they do in many of the chateau gardens of France. As long as the tree is fed and watered regularly it will survive quite happily, and not grow too large because of the confined root space.
Another manner of restricting the size of a tree is to follow the Japanese method and prune the tree continually, keeping a small manicured shape. But this is very time-consuming and expensive and certainly not.
The legal position regarding trees is as follows. If the tree is on your property you are responsible for it and any damage caused by its roots and branches. Tree roots are often mentioned as causing damage to buildings but the case against them is rarely proved. But there is a real chance of damage from subsidence on shrinkableby trees that take a lot of water out of the soil. You need to check if you are on shrinkable clay. Some soils called clay are not shrinkable when water is drawn out of them. All this refers to the sub-soil and not the top soil.
If your house is a new one the developers will be able to tell you the type of sub¬soil you are on. Otherwise look at the local geology map in a library. They are not always easy to understand, so you could try asking for help at your local council.
Really vigorous trees like poplars and willows have very strong roots that seek out water, and they can get into drains and sewers and under foundations. But other physical damage by tree roots is very uncommon.
Important Rules for Planting
(Especially for bare-rooted trees) There are several important rules that you should abide by especially when you buy bare-rooted trees as opposed to those that are container grown.
1. Do not expose the roots of bare-rooted trees to wind, sun or air for more than two or three minutes. If you have to leave the tree for a time once you have started planting, immediately cover the roots with damp sacking or earth.
Trees can die when their roots are exposed to the elements, be it hot sun or cold wind, for as little as five minutes, so it is vitally important to keep the roots covered at all times (including transportation), leave them wrapped in damp sacking, in their package, or heel in (cover roots with earth).
2. Do not soak trees in a bucket of water overnight, as the roots cannot breathe in water. Roots need oxygen, so leave them in damp sacking and just plunge the tree into tepid water for five minutes before planting.
3. If the weather is icy or there is night frost, do not water the tree after planting as ice will form round the roots and distress and perhaps even kill the tree.
These rules apply to trees bought at any size ranging from 2 ft (60 cm) to 12 ft (3.5 m). Larger trees will usually come with a root ball.
Planting in Autumn and Winter
Dig a hole 1ft (30 cm) in diameter wider than the tree roots and 6 in (15 cm) deeper than the root depth. Place the soil from the hole on to a plastic sheet ready to be mixed with moistand/or well-rotted organic matter (such as leaf mould or well-rotted kitchen or grass compost if available).
Next use a fork to break up 1 ft (30 cm) of the soil at the bottom of the hole (vitally important to encourage the roots to grow down) and mix in moist peat and a trowelful of calcified seaweed (to help improve the structure of the soil), bone meal, and a little dried blood, in the bottom of the hole. (It is essential that a tree has nourishment at its roots when planting, so buy at least dried blood and bone meal, even if you don’t have calcified seaweed.)
Add to the soil from the hole (on the plastic sheet) a bucket of moist peat (dry peat will absorb all the moisture from the tree roots) and add a trowelful of bone meal, calcified seaweed and dried blood. Next try the tree in the hole to calculate a good position for the tree stake (at the side of the hole). The stake need only be 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) out of the ground. This helps the tree to root better and develop a strong stem. The tree should then be well enough rooted so that the stake can be removed after a year. Hammer the stake into the ground a good 10 in (25 cm) below the bottom of the pit and then place the tree into the hole and half cover with the earth and peat mixture. Gently shake the tree up and down to ensure the soil has filled in all round the roots and repeat the process. Then fill the hole with more soil and push in with the heel of your boot – not with a flat foot – firmly on and lightly on . Then fill in the rest of the soil and firm in again. Tie the tree to the stake and put rabbit guard round the base of the trunk if you have in the garden.
Then water with two large watering cans full, if the weather is mild after planting but, I repeat, not in icy weather. If it snows after you have planted the tree, the snow will keep the warmth in the soil, so don’t worry that the tree will die of cold!
Water in spring and summer. In dry weather water at least three times a week with two large watering cans full of water for each tree the first year.
Feed in the second spring with an all purpose organic or chemical. The fertiliser in the hole will feed the tree the first year. Top dress after watering round the root of the tree each spring with (a 3-4 in/7.5-10 cm layer of well-rotted grass , leaf mould, peat or organic matter) at least until the tree is well established (two or three years). Keep the base of the newly planted tree weed free in at least a 3 ft (90 cm) wide circle.
Container-grown Trees and Root Ball Trees
For container-grown trees and root-ball trees (which have their roots surrounded by earth and are then tied up with sacking), follow the same procedure as planting a bare-rooted tree. But with a container-grown tree, remove the plastic or pot, and with root-ball remove the sacking carefully when you have placed the tree in its hole. (If you wish, you can leave the sackng as this will rot away in time and leave the tree’s roots free to spread. But it is preferable to remove it.)
A tree may be defined as a woody perennial supported on a single trunk normally several feet tail, frees can beor , but the first term can also include evergold, everblue. Eversilver or a mixture of these colours, trees will last in good health and fine appearance from some ten to twenty years to several hundred, and will grow from only a metre – a very few feet – or so in height to about 20m (60 ft) for garden varieties and more for those trees grown commercially or in parks and arboreta.
A tree on which one lavishes something like two hours work can last a lifetime, which indicates the real value it can give. If it is planted with moderate care it may require no further attention for the remainder of its life. It will seek its own water and its own food, will grow to ten times or more its original height, will provide shade inand in some cases will provide more fruit than can reasonably be consumed by the average family.
So a tree is worth planting well to give it the start in life it deserves. First decide on the type and variety of tree and its site. Should it be an apple or a pear? A conifer? A blossoming? A variegated-leaved maple? What should be its ultimate height? Width? Where will it cast its shade? Will it block window light? Will its roots penetrate drains or wreck the foundations of walls?
Most of these questions will depend on the gardener’s desires, the garden space available, and possibly, his economic position in his decision whether or not to grow fruit. Ultimate heights and widths are frequently given in nursery catalogues and both are important, for a tree that is delightful in its young and immature stale can prove a nightmare of obstruction when it begins to reach maturity. Planting widths decide the number of trees you can fit into a site unless you are prepared to remove some of them when they begin to brush against each other. A very general rule about planting intervals says that one should add together the mature widths of two adjoining trees and divide by two. An example might be an autumn blooming cherry. Primus subhirtella autumnalis, which can grow to a mature height of some 7 m (23 ft) with a spread of 5m (16 ft). Planted next to a hornbeam, Carpinus betulus fastigiata. With a mature height of about 10m (33 ft) and spread of 6m (20 ft), then the distance apart should lie 5 m + 6 m divided by 2, or 5.5 m (about 18 ft).
No tree should be planted loo close to a house, a major wall or drain pipes. In times of drought tree roots seek out moisture and some can penetrate drains and break them up. But the most frequent cause of damage is where the soil is heavy and made up mainly of clay, for here tree roots will absorb all existing moisture, causing the soil to dry out, to crack and to subside, thus causing cracks in walls and broken foundations. Poplar and ash are the most liable to cause this kind of damage.
Having chosen the site, dig the planting hole a little deeper and slightly greater in circumference than is needed and. If the weather is dry, fill it with water. While this is soaking into the surrounding soil, examine your tree and trim away any broken or damaged twigs and any broken roots. Stand the tree in the hole lo make sure that the roots can be accommodated comfortably and that the old soil mark on the trunk will come at soil level. Place the stake in the planting hole lo make sure that it will not damage the roots and then drive it in securely, making sure that it is absolutely vertical.
Now begin the actual planting. Into the bottom of the planting hole sift some well rottedor homemade compost and on top of this a little soil, then place the roots in position and cover them gradually with soil, shaking the tree occasionally to make sure that no air pockets are formed.
When the soil has reached the top of the hole tread it down again. If the weather is dry leave a slight dish around the trunk so that rain water can be caught and absorbed, and if it is wet bank up the soil slightly in a little mound to shed excess water. In either case a finalwith will be helpful. Only after the tree has been planted and is in its permanent position should it be attached to the stake, preferably using a standard plastic tie. If string, rope or wire is used, make sure that the stem of the tree is protected so that it does not cut into the bark.
The method of planting a shrub is exactly the same except that a stake is not always necessary for a subject which is comparatively low and spreading. But both trees and shrubs should have close attention for the first few weeks, being sprayed daily in hot weather, perhaps even shaded and protected from strong winds. After the first few months, which are critical, the tree will begin to look after itself but it will make little or no growth in the first couple of years while it puts down strong roots.
- Care of new trees and shrubs (startgardening.info)