Choosing Trees to Plant in the Garden
When choosing trees, except for those rare, tender or slow-growing varieties, you may not realise but they can be some of the very best investments you will make. Some of the very fast-growing varieties, include the Eucalypts. These can be planted as mere wisps of silvery-blue, 90cm (3ft) high, which in three or four years may be soaring up and bushing out at an amazing rate. In the right place they look splendid and can be cut back to near ground level to supply a succession of juvenile foliage, or pollarded in restricted spaces.
I like them planted in groups of three to form a small grove. Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia Aurea’ is another rampageous grower which, alas, because of the appealing colour of its fresh, green-gold leaves, is often seen in the small front gardens of terraced houses. There, in about four or five years it will have shot up to the eaves and be taking every vestige of light from the front room. Given space to billow out, and perhaps planted where the evening sun can shine through its leaves, it is a delight.
Choosing trees for the garden is the initial stage, because then they have to be planted. Trees should have a good wide hole dug out for them and theenriched in the same way as for the plants. Give them a strong stake while they are young and fasten them to this with either a plastic tree-tie or with pieces cut from a pair of old tights. These are quite efficient, if not exactly elegant, having enough ‘give’ in them to avoid damage to the young bark of the trunk. All ties should be checked regularly to make sure they have not become too tight.
Again, the soil around them should he mulched and kept free of weeds for some years to give them every chance to establish themselves. All mulches should be applied over moist soil, when the sun has warmed the earth up a little in the spring, or in the autumn before it cools down. Again, you could use newspaper, covered by some soil, compost, grass-cuttings, leaves (kept in placeim wire-dngl.ng) or bark, if you can afford it. Keep the mulch just clear of the trunk.
As well as the Eucalypts, there are other trees that can look their best in groups; some fastigiates, the Silver Birches and several of the slim columnar Conifers come to mind; A group of three of these, planted at the end of some vista, however small, could be just what you need; they would all look beautiful, in their own different ways, throughout the year.
Some of the weeping trees make wonderful scene-stealers, from the full-sized Weeping Willows and Beeches to the tiny Cotoneaster hybridus pendulus, the Kilmarnock Willow, the Caraganas Sonphora ‘Pendula’. Quite a few shrubs can be trained to make small trees, by selecting a strong leader, tying this to a stake and off the lower shoots. The standard rose ‘Canary Bird’ makes an effective centre-piece to a small bed, as does a alternifolia.
As in all planting, there are several points to be taken into consideration when choosing trees and before making your final choice. The first, of course, is to find a tree that appeals to you, preferably one that you can hardly bear to be without.
That done, research feverishly if it will survive in your soil and climate; it is particularly important in those trees that are to be the ‘bones’ of your plan. Will it obtain and remain a size that will fill, but not overflow its allotted space? Will the tree blot out a view you wish to retain, or fail to hide an eyesore? Will it overhang the sunniest beds, take light from the windows or, even worse, will it greedy roots rob the soil or undermine the foundations? It is good to remember your neighbours in this instance: will the tree have any adverse effects on them? If you are tempted to ignore this, remember that two can play at that game and you might be the next victim.
The form and colour of the tree and its foliage at all seasons, the bonuses of blossom, scent, fruit and berries, all must he considered. Some have colorations that are lost in shady places, others will be at their finest there. Wind will scorch one, sun shrivel another. If the garden is so small that you must make do with only one tree, the nicety of your choice will be even more important. Do you choose one that combines several of the virtues, or another that is so outstanding in just one that all else is forgiven? Only you can decide, but quite often, this year’s love is soon outgrown, its charm having become less appealing with familiarity. It is best in these cases to make a clean break before the roots grow too deep; remove the poor reject to a quiet corner where it may mope for a while and then, with luck, recover.