Trees for small gardens 2


by James Alexander-Sinclair

The other day there was a tweet from Gardeners' World regarding a post I wrote on this blog a couple of years ago, about my top five trees for small gardens.


Group planting of silver birch treesThe other day there was a tweet* from Gardeners' World regarding a post I wrote on this blog a couple of years ago, about my top five trees for small gardens.

While I still stick with those five I thought I might try and add a further five just in case anybody out there was wandering around looking for such a thing. So, here then, are another five trees…

Arbutus unedo, the strawberry tree: so called after the round strawberry-coloured fruit. You can eat the fruits but they're not a patch on a real strawberry, or even a Hobnob. It is, however, evergreen and has fine cinnamon-coloured bark. In this picture you can just see the white hanging bell flowers as well. (Apparently the name comes from unum tantum edo, which means 'eat only one' in Latin.)

Malus 'Red Sentinel': one of the finest crab apples with sensational autumn colour and jewelled clusters of small red apples that cling on long after the leaves have fallen. The blossom is a fine pinky reddy white in spring.

Acer davidii, the snake bark maple: as the name suggests, the green stripey bark is as slinky smooth as Leslie Phillips in his prime. It also has greeny white flowers in the spring and dramatic yellow autumn colour. There are a number of other acers with the same snakey bark, including A. capillipes and A. grosseri.

Cornus florida: a dogwood, but a long way from the red- and green-stemmed varieties we plant for a splash of winter colour. This one is a stunning plant that has green flowers surrounded by white bracts. These look like petals but technically speaking are not - a bract is a modified leaf which is often much more spectacular than the actual flower. Sadly it does not do well on chalky soils.

Pyrus calleryana 'Chanticleer': an oddity in that this is a pear tree that produces no edible pears. But it is still well worth growing as the blossom is truly sensational and the leaves turn the colour of plums and bruised cranberries. It gets to about 15m which is bigger than the others, so perhaps your small garden had better not be too small.

Maybe I'll think of another five in a couple of years time.

PS You will have noticed that the picture at the head of this blog is of silver birches. I didn't have room for them this time but thought I would put the picture up as a hint … Betula jaquemontii is another good option!

* For those not au-fait with such things I am talking about Twitter, something that is difficult to explain at the best of times and probably inappropriate in a garden blog. Suffice to say that it is an interesting, entertaining and (occasionally) informative way to pass an idle moment.



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Gardeners' World Web User 21/07/2010 at 07:28

* Idle moment? I looked up "idle" in the dictionary. So that's what it means. Fancy people having those.

Gardeners' World Web User 22/07/2010 at 18:02

I wish professional gardeners would stop recommending Silver birch for small gardens without specifying the size they mean! I have a small suburban garden & in summer the back garden is shaded by a Silver Birch 2 doors away. Although beautiful it really should be in a larger garden. Incidentally they are also really bad for causing hay fever & oral allergies.Their pollen can sensitise people to apples & other fruit!

Gardeners' World Web User 22/07/2010 at 20:28

There is a silver birch of unknown variety - of about 50mtres in height - to the east (thank goodness)of my garden. It is absolutely beautiful and a joy to see - placed as it was in a field. Unfortuantely, with a new house being built next to it I fear it's days are numbered. A worse offender- the dense green pines of about 40 metres in height. Lovely in the forest but not in a domestic garden. They shade my garden - keeping the grass green in summer- but this doesn't make up for the frost circle in their shade in winter though.

Gardeners' World Web User 23/07/2010 at 10:28

There was untill three weeks ago a beautiful silver birch growing in a corner of the yard of a neighbour's house. Don't ask me why, as it was a joy to see and doing no harm to anybody, but he has pollarded it, cutting off the top and the branches and leaving the bare tall trunk like a mutilated arm. It makes me want to cry - if he wanted to get rid of it, why not cut the whole thing right down? There's so little left, only a couple of twigs, I don't think it will ever regrow or recover.

Gardeners' World Web User 23/07/2010 at 15:54

The Arbutus unedo, the strawberry tree is native to my contry Portugal. the world famouse Medronho *(native name fro the plant) produce the strongest Fire whater sometimes reaching 90vol of alchool. the latin name as you meation means "eat only one" perhapes comes from the fact that when the fruit is rip if you abuse on its sweetness it ferments before beeing digested leaving the picker tipsy. Some of my childwood memories and of most Southern Portugues is the january\february season of hill walking and berry picking with the amazing finnaly of collective gigling.. This is beutifull tree that some times resembles a large bosai, very exotic looking.

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