Planting trees in small gardens - what you need to know
When you have a small garden there is less space to work with, so it is very important that you plant trees that fit their surroundings.
Large trees have a tendency to take over a garden, blocking out the sun and preventing other plants from flourishing. However, if you plant the right species, you can look forward to a year-round display of bright foliage, colourful blossom, and gorgeous fruit.
One important thing to be aware of when planting any type of tree is that sometimes tree roots cause damage to foundations, sewers and water pipes. Trees planted in clay soils are a particular risk, as the tree will suck all the moisture out of the ground during dry spells. When this happens, the soil shrinks, which can lead to subsidence and structural cracks. Tree roots can also enter drains, causing blockages, and branches may damage gutters and roofs.
If you do suspect you have a problem, a hydrostatic pump can detect underground damage to water mains and sewers, so talk to an expert.
Choosing the right trees
There is any number of tree species to choose from, so it can be hard to pick the right ones. However, there are some important factors to consider before you select a tree to plant:
- Looking good - Different trees look good at different times of the year, so check when a tree flowers and what the autumnal foliage is like. Some trees have more than one season where they look beautiful, so use this information to your advantage.
- Height and spread - In a small garden, this matters a lot. The last thing you need is a tree that grows to such a height that it takes over the garden and has to be chopped down. Even smaller, ornamental species can grow to an impressive height over the years. If you don't want a tall tree, look at a weeping species, where height is naturally restricted. In a narrow garden, go for a column tree that doesn't spread outwards.
- Soil type - Different trees thrive in different soils. Is your soil well drained or heavy clay? Give this some thought before you look at trees, as the wrong soil type means your tree will not thrive no matter what you do.
- Deciduous vs evergreen - Evergreen trees provide colour all year round, but deciduous trees give you glorious autumn foliage displays. There are advantages to having both in a garden.
Trees for small gardens
Magnolia is a beautiful tree with large, fragrant flowers. They tend to be fairly compact and like sun or partial sun, moist well-drained soil, and protection from cold winds.
Japanese flowering cherry trees are famous for their spectacular spring blossom, but the foliage is also glorious in autumn, so you get more for your money.
Fruit trees are also lovely in smaller gardens. You and the birds can enjoy the fruit!
If you are uncertain as to the type of tree your garden needs, ask for advice at your local garden centre.
Have you experience of planting trees in your garden? What specimens did you choose? Tell us below, or share your pictures with us on Twitter and Facebook.