Leaves of a multi-stemmed 'Gingerbread' acer turning bronze-red in autumn

Trees for year-round interest

Discover trees that look good in more than one season with the help of our guide.

When choosing a tree for your garden, it makes sense to opt for a variety that will look good in more than one season.

Some trees provide gorgeous spring blossom, spectacular autumn colour, attractive berries or fruits, interesting bark or a striking silhouette. The best combine two or more of these key attributes, providing interest at different times of the year.

When choosing a tree for your garden, it makes sense to opt for a variety that will look good in more than one season.

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Some trees provide gorgeous spring blossom, spectacular autumn colour, attractive berries or fruits, interesting bark or a striking silhouette. The best combine two or more of these key attributes, providing interest at different times of the year.

Related content: Top trees for small gardens

The best time of year to plant a tree is in the dormant season, between November and March.

Here’s our pick of trees that look great in at least two seasons.

The best trees combine two or more key attributes, providing interest at different times of the year.

Paperbark maple

Acer griseum is spectacular in autumn, when its foliage turns a beautiful crimson red. In winter, its chestnut-coloured bark, which flakes and peels to reveal orange-red  beneath, can be appreciated, especially when the sun shines on it. It’s perfect for growing as a small specimen tree in a mixed border or front garden.

Leaves of a multi-stemmed 'Gingerbread' acer turning bronze-red in autumn
Leaves of a multi-stemmed ‘Gingerbread’ acer turning bronze-red in autumn

Ornamental cherries

Ornamental cherries have spectacular blossom in spring. Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’ also has attractive foliage, emerging bronze, darkening to rich purple, which turns spectacular shades in autumn. P. sargentii also has good autumn colour and attractive bark. Prunus x yedoensis (pictured) has small, red fruits in summer and good autumn colour.

Ornamental cherry blossom against a blue sky
Ornamental cherry blossom against a blue sky

Rowan

Sorbus have flowers in spring, attractive fern-like foliage, clusters of berries that often last well into winter, plus fiery tints in autumn. Sorbus ‘Eastern Promise’ is a lovely small tree, with white flowers in spring, plus dark pink berries and deep purple and orange foliage in autumn.

Red berries on Rowan 'Eastern Promise', its foliage turning orange for autumn
Red berries on Rowan ‘Eastern Promise’, its foliage turning orange for autumn

Snowy mespilus

Snowy mespilus (Amelanchier lamarckii) is a popular tree for a small garden – it has star-shaped blossom in spring, pretty foliage, black berries in summer (loved by birds) and crimson foliage in autumn.

Star-shaped white blossom of snowy mespilus
Star-shaped white blossom of snowy mespilus

Silver birch

Silver birches (betula) have attractive foliage but are mostly grown for their brilliant white bark. They particularly come into their own in winter and early spring when the trees are bare – complement them with plants with colourful winter stems, such as Cornus sanguinea, or early spring bulbs. Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (pictured) is one of the best.

White bark of the West Himalayan Birch
White bark of the West Himalayan Birch

Crab apples

Crab apples are great all-rounders – they bear beautiful blossom, good autumn colour and attractive fruits that persist into winter. Malus ‘Evereste’ (pictured) has white blossom and orange-yellow fruits in autumn. ‘Red Sentinel’ bears pink-white flowers, followed by red fruit and attractive autumnal shades. ‘Winter Gold’ white spring flowers, yellow fruit and glorious autumn colouring.

Red-orange fruit of crab apple 'Evereste'
Red-orange fruit of crab apple ‘Evereste’

Judas tree

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ has attractive purple, heart-shaped leaves in summer that turn yellow in autumn before falling. In spring it bears deep crimson, pink or sometimes white pea-like flowers that look great underplanted with late-flowering tulips. For best results grow in fertile, moist but well-drained soil, in sun or partial shade.

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Heart-shaped, purple leaves of the Judas tree
Heart-shaped, purple leaves of the Judas tree

Multi-stemmed trees

If you’ve got the budget, you could splash out on a multi-stemmed specimen – this will provide an interesting silhouette, especially in winter.

Acer leaf
White bracts and tiny, central flowers of Cornus kousa
White bracts and tiny, central flowers of Cornus kousa

More trees for year-round interest

  • Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ – a slender tree with pretty white blossom in spring and good autumn colour
  • Cornus kousa – a large shrub or tree. In early summer it bears white bracts with tiny flowers in the centre and in autumn the leaves flare bronze and crimson. In a good year there may also be strawberry-like pink fruit in autumn
  • Acer palmatum ‘Sangu-kaku’ – the attractive pale foliage turns a rich yellow in autumn. Once the leaves have fallen, the coral-red bark and stems are eye-catching in winter

When choosing a tree for your garden, it makes sense to opt for a variety that will look good in more than one season.

Some trees provide gorgeous spring blossom, spectacular autumn colour, attractive berries or fruits, interesting bark or a striking silhouette. The best combine two or more of these key attributes, providing interest at different times of the year.

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