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10 flowering trees for small gardens

Trees give your garden structure, provide shade and make a wonderful resource for wildlife – every garden should have one

No garden is too small for a tree, and there’s a wide and varied range of flowering trees suitable for small spaces.

This choice of 10 are all winners of the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) which means that they have been tested by the RHS and found to be reliable, straightforward to grow, and widely available.

Numbers at the end of each entry refer to plant height and RHS hardiness rating.

Year-round appeal

Amelanchier lamarckii has flowers in spring, ornamental fruit in summer and fiery foliage in autumn 
Amelanchier lamarckii or juneberry is a well-branched, bushy, small tree that’s a little reminiscent of a flowering cherry or crab apple. Pure white flowers open in spring among the coppery young foliage, creating a blizzard of early bloom. They are followed later by berries which are always appreciated by birds. And finally there’s fiery autumn leaf colour. Three different seasons of interest from one fine small garden tree. 5m (16½ft). H7.

Golden clusters

Acacia baileyana bears sprays of yellow flowers from late winter and into spring
The golden wattle, Acacia baileyana lights up the garden in late winter and early spring. Its silvery grey, feathery evergreen leaves make a lovely background to the fluffy yellow flower clusters gathered in arching sprays. Trim off the lower branches to create a tree habit. 4m (13ft). H3.

Multi-purpose trees

Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo 'Atlantic') has handsome evergreen leaves, pretty autumn flowers and characterful bark
Arbutus or strawberry trees are a group of small, evergreen trees with flowers like lily-of-the-valley and unusual red and yellow fruits. What's more their distinctive bark is an all-year-round feature and, unlike most members of the heather family, most are happy growing in limy soil. Arbutus unedo 'Atlantic' grows to 4m (13ft). H4.
Top tip! Show off the bark

Allow your strawberry tree to develop its natural shape, then prune off the lower branches to reveal its beautiful bark.


Bold white bracts

Hardy Cornus kousa 'John Slocock' has a vertical habit, useful for maximising small spaces 
Cornus kousa 'John Slocock' is an unusually upright form of the Japanese dogwood, its vertical branches create a tree that fits nicely into a small space. The bold white bracts, opening in June, are veined in green and develop rosy tints as they mature, with bright red fruits like strawberries forming later. Autumn leaf tones in deep red and bronze are also a feature. It's happy in any soil except if it's shallow and chalky. 4m (13ft). H5.

Tree-forming hawthorn

Red is a predominant colour for Crataegus persimilis 'Prunifolia' thanks to its berries and autumn foliage
Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia’ is a tree-forming selection and a definite step up in its ornamental qualities to regular hedgerow hawthorns. 'Prunifolia' has more compact growth, darker and glossier foliage, and bright white flowers sparked by pink anthers. The flowers are followed by exceptionally persistent crimson fruits and fine autumn leaf colour. 5m (16½ft). H7.

For the balcony

The ornamental crab apples of Malus 'Evereste' are a treat for garden birds 
An exceptional crab apple, Malus 'Evereste' is certainly one to choose if you have a balcony. It has snowy 5cm (2in) white, spring flowers opening from red buds to give an attractive contrast. Later, the 2.5cm (1in) red fruits develop, creating a whole new look. Look for trees grafted on M27 rootstocks and grow it on in a large container. Keep the soil moist and don't allow it to dry out. 2m (6½ft). H6.

Far eastern delight

The blossoms of Prunus mume 'Beni-chidori' come out when spring bulbs emerge; timely and effective
The Japanese apricot, Prunus mume 'Beni-chidori' is a great choice for a small tree in a number of ways. Firstly, its rich pink flowers are freshly scented and open in February and March, right along with all your spring shade lovers planted underneath. Secondly, it’s naturally small and casts only dappled shade. 3m (10ft). H5.

Wistfully weeping willow

Pendent stems give Salix purpurea 'Pendula' its character and charm
Salix purpurea ‘Pendula’ is well worth planting in a small garden, as it's much better-behaved than the giant weeping willows you see in parks and large gardens. It's a lovely small weeping willow with purple stems that carry catkins before the leaves open. It makes a superb winter silhouette too followed by generous colour in spring. 4m (13ft). H6.

Chinese mountain ash

The clusters of white berries from Sorbus koehneana provide colour and contrast in autumn 
Sorbus koehneana* is a relatively uncommon relation of our native mountain ash with some appealing differences. It remains smaller as a whole and its leaves are smaller too. With more leaflets than the native mountain ash it gives an altogether more feathery look. The flat white flower heads begin the display in April and are followed by small porcelain white berries on red stalks. 4m (13ft) H6. *This plant doesn't currently hold the AGM but is still recommended for small gardens.

The plantsman's choice

The captivating, long flowerheads of Styrax hemsleyanus emerge in June
Styrax hemsleyanus is another that casts only light shade - ideal where you’d like to grow woodland perennials underneath. Its glory comes in June when the 15cm (6in) long strings of white flowers open, beautifully set off by bold leaves. It appreciates an open situation in good soil and preferably with shelter. 4m (13ft) H5.

 

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