How to choose your perfect garden tree


Choosing a tree for your garden means
asking yourself three questions. Firstly will it grow in your soil or your
climate? Secondly how tall do you want it to grow? and thirdly do you want it to
have leaves on all year round or do you want it to have some wonderful glorious
spring and autumn color? So where to buy your trees? I always advise people to buy
their trees from specialist tree growers if they can, particularly if they’re
local. You really want to go in and tell people what the size of your garden is,
what you want to achieve, what is growing locally. Ask a few different people. If
you go to a garden center to buy a tree and you ask for advice and they’re not
giving you anything much more than what’s on the label then it’s probably a
good idea to try and find specialist growers – specialists in hedging and trees –
and you can find these on the internet and there are some links to some good
companies operating in the UK in the description below. Then there are other
important considerations and one of the ones that’s quite important is to buy
trees that are locally grown. It doesn’t mean that you always have to buy native
trees, but you will find that trees that are actually grown quite near to where
you live or within 50 miles or so may do better ,because they’re more used to the
climate on the territory – but also there’s less chance of bringing in pests
and diseases from abroad. Here in the UK we don’t have particularly good
biosecurity, and things like ash dieback and oak processionary moth devastate our trees. And it’s now becoming quite clear that we
actually really need to buy locally grown trees or grow trees ourselves. The
other question people ask is how old should the tree be? Should I plant a
mature tree so that I can get the impact immediately or is it better to buy
something young? Now my personal experience is that if you buy a tree
that is too tall, it will be pushed over by the wind. A small, young tree has a chance to
get its roots down and to get fixed into the ground before the winds come along and
before it has any really significant body to to blow over. However I know that
expert tree nurseries can do the kind of planting that means a larger mature
is more likely to establish. It’s incredibly important to water your tree weekly in
the first year – certainly in the summer – and in the second year if you have a dry
spell, it’s probably worth giving it a watering can full of water – maybe every
fortnight – and make sure that the water really thoroughly soaks and it goes
right down into the ground. Don’t just put a sprinkling along the surface
because that won’t help. Let me take you around the trees in my garden to show
you my mistakes, tips and triumphs, because that may help you with your own
decisions. This cypress was a huge lump of a tree
when we bought the house. A friend suggested lifting the skirt, which is
cutting off the lower branches, and we also keep it from growing too tall by
taking a couple of feet off every few years. Now we love it and it screens the
garden from a powerful street lamp nearby. This is a liquidambar. I had it
planted when I knew nothing about gardening. I asked a tree specialist for
advice on trees and he suggested this. I have no idea why – we had asked him for a
screening tree for the street lamp as we were going to get rid of the conifer. A
Liquidambar is no good as a screening tree as it’s deciduous and loses its
leaves in winter, but it is very beautiful.
This is magnolia grandiflora – it was a small bush 15 years ago. We took off the
lower branches to give it a lollipop shape and have since done nothing to it. It is an excellent screening tree because it’s an evergreen and it gives
us one or two dramatic flowers throughout the year. These three silver
birches were all planted at the same time seven years ago. They were all about
two meters high (6ft). As you can see one has flourished and is twice the size of the
other two, and the other two will probably have to come out. These Holm
Oaks were young whips seven years ago and we’ve cut them into shape –
it took about four five six years to get them into a good shape. They cost fifty
pounds each but if you bought them in a topiarised form like this, it would
probably cost about ten times that much. This large tree with the yellow leaves
is Robinia Frisia or false acacia. It’s the biggest tree in the garden and
has probably been here for more than 30 years. Its size gives the garden
proportion – all we do is to remove any dead or dying branches and we’ve also
taken away some of the lower branches or lifted the skirt to give more light to
the plants underneath. This is a quince and next door is a crabapple – I
bought several fruit trees seven years ago but I ordered them rather than
choosing them. When they were delivered I saw that this quince and the next-door
crabapple were not beautifully shaped trees, and I’ve discovered that it’s
difficult to prune an ungainly tree into a beautiful shape, so look at your tree’s
shape before buying it. This silver birch is a big feature in our garden in winter –
it’s probably over 30 years old, we regularly thin out the canopy with
yearly pruning, which keeps it looking elegant and means that it doesn’t block
out too much light. This purple leaved tree is Cotinus coggyria ‘Grace’ and
this is more usually seen as a shrub. It was planted by our predecessors in this
garden. It’s grown up into a tree and at one point had an absolutely massive leaf
canopy – however half of it died in a dry spell, so we’ve reduced the leaf canopy
by about two-thirds. If a tree is supporting a lot of leaves then its
roots have a lot of work to do. And this tree also had two attacks of
something called verticillium wilt and it has recovered – but we do try not to
plant other trees or shrubs that are vulnerable to verticillium wilt as you
can’t get it out of the soil. So if you’ve had a tree die of something, do
check that before choosing a new tree. And this young silver birch was planted
with two others. One died in its second summer and the other simply never really
took off, so I took it out and this tree is actually going really well on its own,
now in its third year. Trees are immensely important for combatting pollution,
for the air we breathe. for supporting wildlife, for maintaining diversity and
they are wonderful, they give you shade, they protect you from the wind, they are
a fantastic part of what makes our gardens so good to be in, so if you’ve
enjoyed this please hit like. I’d love to know if you want to know more about
trees, and if you haven’t subscribed to the Middlesized Garden Youtube channel
and blog, please do so. We upload on Saturdays with tips, ideas and
inspiration for your garden from real gardens

13 thoughts on “How to choose your perfect garden tree

  1. Great video Alexandra! I started a garden from scratch in the spring this year, and I planted about 5 different young trees. I hope they do well – I did a lot of research…. I think trees are precious because it takes decades for them to become trees!

  2. A very informative video, though if I was a neighbour of yours I might be just a little peeved that so many of your trees are bang right up against the border thereby impinging on my garden space. Maybe, though, your border adjoins a street or similar. Anyway, please keep up the videos; I look forward each week to viewing them.

  3. I would also add to check the life expectancy of a tree. I just removed an Arizona Ash Tree from my backyard because it was half dead when we purchased the house.

  4. I am absolutely in love with your garden ❤️ as I wish to one day come as close as your designs for mine. I am in the process of getting trees which can be quite difficult, but your advice has been more than helpful! Thank you.

  5. Excellent discussion about trees: ornamental value, practical considerations, and care. I’d also say that growing season affects the size of the tree one purchases. Here in South Carolina I bought a tiny Carolina Sapphire conifer 🌲eight inches high for $10 and it doubled in size and value in just a year. Also I recommend buying ornamental maples saplings and grow them in a container for the first year and then put them out in the landscape. 🌳

  6. 5.26 Also known as a Smoke Tree, of Chinese or Mongolian origin. Please correct me if i am wrong. Probably he most pleasurable tree in Autumn.

  7. Super useful and interesting, especially as this is all from your personal experience. Enjoy all your videos. Many thanks!

  8. Super useful and interesting, especially as this is all from your personal experience. Enjoy all your videos. Many thanks!

  9. Wonderful. I would only add to always check the mature size of all "shrubs" because many of them will become trees. We made the mistake of planting a Mugho Pine that was sold as a shrub and 20 years later it was a big tree. Our neighbor had two small blue spruce planted to either side of her front door that got so large you couldn't see the door anymore!

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