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. If you have a small space, there are plenty of trees for small gardens. If you're looking for a bit of extra privacy, check out our recommended screening trees.
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.
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.
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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.
Rowan trees (Sorbus aucuparia) 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.
Snowy mespilus (Amelanchier) 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.
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.
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.
Judas tree or redbud
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. Meanwhile Cercis siliquastrum (the true Judas tree) has beautiful magenta blossom in spring and pretty apple green leaves that turn butter yellow in autumn.
Multi-stemmed treesIf you've got the budget, you could splash out on a multi-stemmed specimen – this will provide an interesting silhouette, especially in winter.
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