Even the smallest garden has room for a tree or two. A single tree can bring a garden to life, adding height, structure, and a sense of permanence. Trees provides shade, a habitat and food for birds, colour for autumn, spring blossoms and fruit. Careful consideration should be given to which tree, and its eventual height and position – it will be there for a long time!
Unless you have a large garden it makes sense to choose trees which have more than one season of interest. Malus Golden Hornet (Crab Apple) grows to 10m and has magnificent pink spring flowers, followed by decorative yellow fruits. Acer Palmatum Dissectum ‘Garnet’ grows to around 2m with red leaves throughout spring and summer changing to vivid scarlet in autumn. Another multi-tasker from the Acer family is Acer Griseum (Paper Bark Maple), which has attractive peeling bark all the year round and scarlet foliage in autumn.
Tree planting season is from October to March while they are dormant, and although you can plant container-grown trees all year round, autumn is the best time of all as the ground is still warm from the summer but moist thanks to seasonal rainfall. Instead of having to worry about watering you can leave autumn planted trees to look after themselves and they should be well-established by next summer. However, if you garden on heavy clay that stays very wet in winter you may be better-off waiting until spring.
Bare-rooted trees can be planted towards the end of October, provided the ground is ready and the leaves have fallen off.
Good soil preparation is key to how well the tree takes off. For container-grown specimens, loosen some of the roots at the edges of the rootball and dig a planting hole three times the size of the pot, deep enough for the bottom of the trunk to be level with the top of the hole. For bare-rooted trees, dig a large but shallow hole. In both cases drive in a support stake at an angle before placing the tree in the hole. Mix the soil you removed from the hole with plenty of well-rotted organic matter and bonemeal, and add to the bottom of the hole and around the roots. Tie-in to the stake and water well.
Check tree ties and stakes after a spell of windy weather. Ties need to be loosened as the girth of the trunk expands so it doesn’t throttle the plant. Trees are expensive, so don’t risk your investment for the sake of the right soil and a few minutes extra to do the job properly!