Trees for the Small Town Garden
A very careful choice needs to be made of trees for the town garden; if pruning is necessary in later years when the trees are mature, they can look a travesty of their natural form.
Choose the right tree for the right position and you will have a visual delight as well as the possibilities of privacy, fruit, disguise or, if you want, a pleasant cover of shade. Choose trees with light rather than heavy foliage if you prefer dappled shade. Silver birches give light leaf cover and in winter die delicate tracery of their branches and the silver trunks provide interest. A single specimen looks well enough but several stems coming from one tree gives an attractive copse effect. Fewcan allow full spread to the larger , ash or beech trees, which would cast too dense a shade in a confined space.
If your neighbours or the position of your boundary or house walls allow, plant trees off centre, not in the middle of the plot where they may totally shade it and arrest the eye rather than also acting as a pointer to the rest of. Think about what will grow under trees. Many plants will grow under birches but under a beech, the shading is so dense that you might only want the potting shed there. Sec the table on the right for some suggestions for smaller trees which give both a flower, leaf and autumn colour.
When buying a tree from a nursery, be sure to find out as much detail as possible about its adult size. Choose healthy trees with good shoots and stems. If you have room for several trees, select ones which offer interest at different times of year. Choose from the following:
Acer negundo ‘Variegatum’, box elder. Leaves have a broad white margin. Reverts to large specimen if not pruned.
Amelanchier laevis, known as June berry. White flowers in early May with rich autumn tints.
Betida pendula ‘Youngii’ A weeping form of the birch, with good silver bark.
Laburnum anagyroides A tree common in larger forms but it can be controlled. Racemes of yellow flowers appear in late May. Pods are poisonous.
Malus crab apple. There are several small trees in this, which bear colourful autumn fruits.
Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Pyramidalis’ Most of the genus grow large, but the pyramidal selection is of slender growth, forming a neat column.
Sorbus Another genus with good autumn berries.
There are many to choose from.
Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii’ Scots elm. A small tree with pendulous branches. Makes an excellent specimen on its own.
Planting of trees is a most important operation, as what you do to the tree when you plant it affects its whole future. Most trees these days come in containers from garden centres and therefore all that needs to be done is to dig a hole larger than the container in which the plant is delivered or collected. If the tree looks potbound, then some of the roots should be gently teased out and spread around the new hole. The basic principle is to make sure that the plant is well watered before planting, watered after planting and well firmed in with your heel when it is planted.
Stakes should be inserted when planting before the hole is filled in and not driven into the ground after planting as this could well damage the root system. If the tree comes bare rooted from a nursery, then cut any damaged parts away cleanly with a sharp knife or secateurs and if the roots are dry then soak them for a while before planting. Make sure that the hole is big enough to take the roots spread out flat and do not squash them into a smaller hole.
Planting trees is best undertaken in the autumn or during the winter when the ground is free of frost, though containerized trees can be planted at almost any time of the year. It is even more vital to water a newly planted tree if drought conditions prevail.