The 21st garden can be a shrinking violet of a patch. There is practically no room to swing a cat, but you still want a tree. This is the last of three posts on choosing a tree for the small, smaller and by now diminutive garden.
In my mind’s eye, the plants I am recommending are for a courtyard garden, notionally 4 x 4 metres and getting a bit of sunlight. (Dank shade is a subject for another day). So what can you squeeze in, appropriate in final size and for the bestowing of tree-like qualities? A bit of height but not something that splurges sideways, filling the space like a set jelly. Please note that judicious pruning may well be necessary.
1. Magnolias are the most alluring of trees. Something to do with watching the velvet buds slowly puff up over the winter months. Magnolia lilliflora ‘Nigra’
has exceptional dark flowers and is a good deal smaller than most types, say 4 metres high by 2.5. Magnolias need sun and protection from harsh winds. Best planted where the early morning sun will not get at frosted buds or flowers.
2. For a courtyard of statement Prunus x yedoensis ‘Pendula‘
can just squeeze in. This cherry is grafted at about 2 metres and the branches swirl and bow down above this point. A wide weeping tree that is handsome to look at all winter. Blossom and autumn colours are good too.
3. Corylus avellana ‘Contorta
’ is a blissful mass of twisty stems in winter and spectacular catkins. A smaller cousin of the the woodland hazel. This plant is grafted so make sure that any straight stems get the chop.
4. Viburnum bodnantense,
like the hazel above, is also a shrub but a catwalk one at the sophisticated end of the spectrum: narrow waisted and arching up like a vase. Early flowers are scented.
5. Left to their own devices, willows are in a hurry to take up space. You can trick them out of this by an annual pollard. (this means chopping off all branches at shoulder height round about now in March) New stems grow in electric shades for winter interest. I recommend Salix viminalis.
6. Wisteria floribunda
trained as a tree - now here is a very chic trick for a small garden. Plant a wisteria and put a heavy stake in beside it - use this to create an upright clean trunk of about a metre high and then let the branches develop. A sensational very small tree - draw dropping in flower and ideal for a sunny site.
7. Bamboos are overlooked and feared. This is so wrong. Fantastic for height, shade tolerance, murmuring fluttery sound effects and zinging stem colour. There are two unbelievably gorgeous ones for a small site: Phyllostachys aurea ‘Holochrysa
’ (yellow) and Phyllostachys nigra
(black). Two tips: buy from a reliable source as there are many lesser clones. I recommend Paul Whittaker at www.hardybamboo.com
and second tip: keep a ditching spade to cut out unwanted spread.
Last of all two plants for the the nano garden:
8. Viburnum opulus roseum
is s cultivar of the lovely Guelder rose, richest of plants from the native hedgerow. Grow it for wildlife and for greeny-white flowers and jewel red berries. The leaves in autumn are intense and fiery and the birds will come for those berries.
9. Acer palmatum var dissectum ‘Garnet’
- at a suggested overall size of 1.5 metres in all directions, it might almost be too fairy garden. Dissent is shooed away by the sophistication of its habit and the palmate leaves in grown-up maroon.
The two earlier posts might come in handy: How to Choose a Tree for the Smaller Garden
for a notional 5 x 5 metre garden and gong up in size: How to Choose a Tree for the Small Garden
. Happy choosing.