Even the most dedicated maintenance cannot make a large tree suitable for a small garden, and there is a list of smaller garden trees that are ideally suited to such a calling. All of them are rated by the RHS as H4, or ‘hardy’ so will be suitable for most gardens, and all are quite easy to grow. Just because your garden is small, don’t think you can’t have trees.
If your garden is very small, it might be best to choose a deciduous tree that will lose its leaves in winter, thus allowing your home to receive much-needed winter sun for warmth in the colder months. A small evergreen tree in garden might be ideal for providing privacy for your garden from neighbouring upstairs’ windows. In small gardens, it is a good idea to prune the lower branches of trees as they grow to allow more light into the garden or house.
This is a particularly good variety of Cherry to grow if you have a small space to fill and don’t want too wide a canopy of branches, as it is columnar in habit, hence its common name of ‘Pencil Cherry’. It has wonderful, semi-double, pale pink blossom in May and fantastic autumn foliage colours. It will grow to between 4 and 8 metres tall and is extremely durable. Preferring a well-drained soil, this cultivar is indifferent to its placement in the garden, doing well in shade or sun, regardless of exposure.
Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’
Cercis is a native of Mediterranean areas and has the nick-name ‘Judas Tree’, as legend has it that it was the tree on which Judas hanged himself, but don’t let that put you off! This particular variety is grown as much for its stunning foliage as the flowers, as it is possessed of large, heart-shaped, deep purple leaves with only small pinkish flowers on the bare branches before the leaves appear. It needs a position in full sun, dislikes cold or clayey gardens and will grow to about 5-6ms tall.
This ‘Crab Apple’ is another hardy addition to our list that will produce fragrant, shallow cupped flowers, red in bud opening to white, in the spring time, followed by orange-red edible fruits. These would require cooking to be edible, but generally it’s best to leave them on the tree so they can form nature’s own baubles in the winter time. Overall it will assume a conical shape about 7ms tall and from spring to autumn it will provide a changing spectacle of colour.
Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’
The ‘Japanese Maple’s’ ecology is referred to as an understory plant, meaning that in its woodland habitat it will reach heights expected of a mid-level shrub. In the average garden though, these limitations may be surpassed due to the extra sunlight, compared with its endemic conditions. This variety has deep purple, deeply lobed leaves, turning bright red in autumn and will reach a height of around 6-8ms. It prefers an acid, moist, but well drained soil, clay or sand based and its placement should be in full or partial shade. Water in the summer, if necessary.
The ‘Strawberry Tree’ is a good choice if you are looking for a small evergreen tree, (although it is technically a shrub). The tree is slow-growing, but has year-round interest with its glossy, dark green foliage, white, pendant flowers and edible (but flavourless) orange-red, strawberry-like fruits in autumn. It is also possessed of a long life span of 20-50 years with an ultimate height of 4-8 metres. It prefers a well-drained but moist soil, preferably acidic though neutral will suffice and clay/sand based is best.