Every garden has room for a tree, even if it is only a small one growing in a pot.
Any tree adds maturity, height and another dimension to a garden; but add a flowering tree and you introduce a seasonal showstopper. If the display lasts only for a couple of weeks it is something to look forward to every year, an event to lift the spirits, a landmark in the gardening year.
It is no wonder that Amelanchier lamarckii is one of the most popular and widely planted trees for small gardens. With its sprays of delicate white flowers amidst unfurling bronze foliage it is a delight in the fresh light of early spring. Although it can be grown as a standard tree, it is at its best as a multi-stem, with several branches arising from ground level. Perfect for the small garden, even in a large container, it has the bonus of red fruits, which birds enjoy in late summer. Amelanchier is a good choice for gardens on wet ground; if the soil is kept reasonably moist the leaves colour richly in fall
Magnolia stellata ‘Waterlily’
Most magnolias eventually make large, spreading specimens. The best choice for smaller gardens is the starry-flowered Magnolia stellata ‘Waterlily’ which grows on all reasonable soils. The silky grey buds at the tips of the shoots are attractive through winter. These start to open in early spring into sparkling white waterlily blooms before the leaves appear. It is far more weather resistant than most magnolias and will reach a height of less than 1.8 metres (6ft) in 10 years. Grow a compact, large flowered clematis through it for a floral display later in the season.
Prunus incisa ‘Kojo no Mai’
Everyone loves cherry blossom and you can have it, even in the tiniest garden, with Prunus incisa ‘Kojo no Mai’. This delightful dwarf cherry has zig-zag twigs and tiny dark green leaves. In spring the buds burst into clusters of blush flowers, attractive to early bees. In autumn the tiny leaves turn rich red. Planted in the open ground it grows slowly to 1.8m (6ft) but can be kept to half that in a pot. If you need to prune it remove stems selectively to preserve the shape and only do this in summer.
Where there is space for a larger, standard tree Prunus ‘Pandora’ is an excellent choice. Compact and upright in habit it casts little shade and produces amass of delicate pale pink blossoms in early spring. The small leaves colour well in autumn and cause few problems when they fall. A good choice for a small, narrow plot.
The crab apples are some of the best wildlife friendly trees with nectar rich blossom and juicy fruits in fall. Where space permits Malus transitoria is one of the loveliest with its spreading branches, cut leaves and free flowering habit. In late spring the branches are wreathed in honey scented flowers which develop into tiny golden apple fruits that remain on the branches after the leaves have fallen. The foliage turns rich yellow in autumn.
Malus ‘Evereste’ is another popular choice with apple blossom flowers followed by long-lasting orange-red fruits. It is a versatile tree that can be allowed to grow naturally or can be pruned and trained like an apple. Shortening back the current season’s growth in late summer helps to develop flowering/fruiting spurs and promotes a more compact habit.
The Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, never fails to attract attention when it produces its purple-pea flowers on the dark branches in mid to late spring. A tree of character it conveys an air of maturity from a young age. The soft green heart shaped leaves develop after the flowers and fall to reveal the flattened pea-like pods that remain after the flowers in winter. A good choice for chalk soils and situations close to a wall or fence. It is best in full sun and plant the cultivar ‘Bodnant’ if possible: larger, brighter flowers and more of them.
The flowering dogwoods are easier to grow than most imagine. They do need reasonable soil of a good depth and struggle on shallow chalk or very dry soils. Some can be slow to flower, but Cornus ‘Porlock’ flowers from an early age and grows quickly. It does develop into a large, spreading plant, but if you have room few plants are more rewarding. The butterfly-like bracts start green, then cream, white, and finally blush pink before they fall. I autumn red, strawberry-like fruits hang from the branches. A tree in full bloom is a spectacular site and the floral display lasts for several weeks.
Eucryphia nymansensis ‘Nymansay’
Those gardening on acid soil should make the most of the eucryphias. These wonderful shrubs or small trees are evergreen and flower in summer when few other trees are blooming. Eucryphia nymansensis ‘Nymansay’ is the easiest to grow. It forms a columnar tree which takes up little space and provides excellent year round structure. The single, summer flowers have silky petals and are filled with delicate stamens; beautiful against the shining green leaves. Best planted as a small container specimen it does need patience as it takes time to reach tree proportions, however it is a result worth waiting for.