Growing trees in pots

by Adam Pasco

Who can possibly have space in a small, modern garden for a tree, let alone two? Well, I think everyone has, provided they choose the right ones.

Hellebore seed-podThe very mention of the word 'tree' causes some gardeners to twitch nervously. Who can possibly have space in a small, modern garden for a tree, let alone two? Well, I think everyone has, provided they choose the right ones. I've enjoyed reading James Alexander-Sinclair's blogs on the subject of small trees but wanted to share my own experience - not of growing trees in the garden but in large pots.

Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' is a stunning small, slow-growing maple with the most gorgeous palm-shaped golden leaves. A deciduous tree, its buds start opening as weather warms up during April, and by early May the spreading canopy of branches is clad with fully open foliage. Looking out at it today - sitting proudly in its large pot on my patio close to the back door - the sun catches these new leaves in a brilliant display.

By the end of May its bright red seed pods will be developing, their colour matching the bases of the leaf stalks. What more could you ask for? I've been growing it in a large, heavy terracotta pot for about six years now. Like any permanent planting I used John Innes No.3 loam-based potting compost, as trees need compost with real guts. Even so you'll need to feed them - my acer gets a weekly liquid feed through summer along with all the pots of bedding.

I've a second pot-grown acer as a companion, this time a finely split-leafed Japanese maple with a lovely green leaf. Both plants can suffer from leaf scorch during bright midday sun.

So, for tiny gardens think tiny trees in pots, and in my book there's only one tree ... the acer!

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Gardeners' World Web User 13/05/2008 at 08:49

My trees in pots include an Acer, re-potted this year following the planting guide given by Joe.

Then there is the Avocado pear tree. This tree was grown from a pip (stone) that germinated in the compost bin a couple of years ago.

Finally a trio of Date Palms that have also been re-potted this year. These all germinated from dates bought at Christmas time. A few stones were planted in pots then left and forgotten in the greenhouse some germinated. There is some die-back which is a pity. Could this be cold please? I plan to post a photo in my Gardening Calendar.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/05/2008 at 11:12

Interesting to hear of others growing trees from seed. I am a compulsive grower of things from stuff I have eaten! I presently have 3 chestnuts growing indoors that I saved from some bought at Christmas. They seem to be thriving and are about 9 inches tall just now but with lots of healthy leaves. Question is will they survive outside in a sheltered garden in Orkney? I thought I might keep one as a bonsi. Any suggestions?

Gardeners' World Web User 15/05/2008 at 11:14

I have lots of trees in pots including 3 acers one acer ive had eight years its very slow growing,still only being 18".I have a magnolia which flowered for the first time this year,2 christmas trees one was a table decoration a few years ago,I potted it up autum last year its new growth looks great its now aprox 16".I also got a cherry tree and a necterine in half barrels they were planted november last year they look happy with there new leaves,I have many more all looking good and 2 new magnolias to join them which ive been growing on for a year in the greenhouse and I have them now outside.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/05/2008 at 17:15

I have a lovely silver birch in a metal dustbin which only cost about £15 - a bargain for a patio pot of this size! This idea featured on gardeners' world a few years ago. I drilled holes about 2 " from the base and filled the bottom of the bin with gravel to help drainage followed by my own compost. It now stands about 8 feet high - I have pinched out the tip when it was about 6 ft to stop it growing too much higher. It stands on a wheeled plant saucer and serves as a nice safe way to have a tree at the edge of my patio, provide privacy from my neighbours without any roots damaging our foundations. Even better if we move it can travel!

Gardeners' World Web User 15/05/2008 at 19:12

I have a robinina frisia contorta, 5 different acers (varying sizes, 3 viburnums, 3 wisteria, an olive europaea, 2 grape vines, and 3 different palms. All living happily in pots. Have just got around to putting the apple(I think bought with no label!) tree in the ground and it has flower buds on.

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