Last updated on January 21st, 2020
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We think every garden should have a tree as they provide cover for wildlife, shade on a hot summers day and some can even provide edible fruits. The good news is no garden is too small if you buy the right tree and some can even be grown in pots
If you have a small garden and are looking for some trees to add not just colour but perhaps fruit and stunning foliage, these top 10 trees for small gardens will offer the perfect solution, some are evergreen are even work well as informal screening while others provide much-needed spring colour such as the flowering cherry, upright varieties and Goldenrain tree which looking absolutely stunning with its drooping yellow flowers.
Arbutus × andrachnoides – strawberry tree
The strawberry tree is a graceful evergreen shrub that has a cinnamon bark shade juxtaposed with dark green foliage. During the springtime, you get a collection of white flowers which eventually yield right strawberry shaped fruits that are completely edible although it can take nearly a year to ripen.
The plant will provide visual interest year-round and requires almost no effort and is one of the very few trees on our list that is evergreen. It is perfect as a small specimen tree in the corner of a garden, an even as an informal hedge that provides privacy all year round.
Once it is established it will need to be watered in well and occasionally. Otherwise, it thrives in partial sun and full shade reaching up to two or three meters in height and 2 meters in width by the time it reaches full maturity. It is a very versatile, water-wise, a shrub that can be perfectly integrated as a privacy screen, border, as part of a cutting garden, Wildlife garden, or specimen tree and if you want to get creative you can always use the fruit to make jam or even wine.
Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ (flowering cherry)
This flowering cherry tree is a narrow columnar tree that is best grown in areas with very limited garden space. If you have a small garden the upright branches will help you make the most of the available space especially the nearer to the sky.
By April you will see semi-double, large pink flowers start appearing. The foliage starts out as a bronze-green colour and turns to green in the middle of summer after which it suddenly and spectacularly bursts into a collection of orange and red in the Autumn. It is very eye-catching for any perimeter. it requires partial shade or full sun and regular water until established, especially during extreme heat which we don’t get enough of in the UK. It is used primarily as a privacy screen and to provide spring colour but it can also be used to create a hedge screening.
Amelanchier lamarckii (Juneberry)
The Juneberry tree blooms in April with white flowers that draw the eye so gives a splash of colour early on in the season. It thrives best in full sun or partial shade with medium watering requirements and yet very low maintenance requirements overall.
The fruit produced is edible if you can get to them before the birds, often eaten fresh, cooked or dried and used like raisins. It thrives most prolifically in a moist, well-drained loamy soil with Acid to Neutral being the best. The white leaves it produces appear in drooping clusters at the beginning of Spring, with five petals and a slight fragrance. Eventually, these flowers make way for the round, edible berries which in June convert to a dark purple-black colour which the name June Berry is administered.
They are also used regularly jellies and pies as well as previously mentioned. The oblong leaves that emerge in springtime take on a bronze and purple shade and as they mature they turn dark green but by Autumn you can enjoy a red and orange collection.
Acer griseum (Maple tree)
Maple trees, particularly the paperbark maple tree offers a visually captivating display on the tree trunk itself. This tree has an oval crown with an open habitat and the branches grow upright. The leaves start off as green and eventually convert to scarlet in autumn.
The papery sheets of bark begin to peel away and expose the cinnamon-coloured bark below offering a display of multiple shades of brown and burnt sienna perfect for any small garden.
This deciduous tree requires regular watering and can thrive in partial shade to full sun. The blooms are inconspicuous what is more important is the foliage which does look amazing first being green, turning a firework display of colours from pink to bright red into the autumn. It will grow up to 5m tall and 4m wide once it reaches full maturity in around 20 years but us slow growing to make it a good choice for smaller gardens.
Crataegus laevigata Rosea Flore Pleno (hawthorn)
The double pink Hawthorn, one of many names attributed to this small garden tree is a deciduous tree and shrub complete with spiny branches and toothed leaves, producing double pink coloured flowers and subsequent red or black fruit. It will grow between 4 and 8m high and wide. But rest assured if you have a small garden it will take between 20 and 50 years for this tree to reach its ultimate height of 8 metres by 8 metres with many being much smaller even after this time.
It does well in sandy, chalky, or clay-filled soil and will accommodate acidic, alkaline, or neutral soil so soil PH is not a problem, unlike some trees. Regardless of the type, it does need to be well draining and moist soil. It will thrive in full sun or partial shade. In the summer you get green foliage and come springtime that green foliage is highlighted by the pink flowers. As the tree transitions into Autumn, you get yellow foliage and red foliage combined with red and black fruit although you should not eat the fruit as it can cause stomach ailments.
Laburnum vossii (Golden Rain)
Goldenrain is a tree given its name because of the stunning yellow blooms that are produced in the springtime. Not only are they beautiful in colour but they flower along a very long, length of the stem which hangs straight down giving the appearance of a golden shaded rain falling through the tree, some might even hear them be called banana tree.
These drooping clusters have a light fragrance and are perfect for gardeners who want a beautiful spreading canopy replete with green foliage. It flowers very prolifically in cooler Summers and it is a deciduous tree.
It requires partial to full sun and regular watering at first but once established is virtually maintenance free. In terms of its size, it is rather moderate and can reach up to 7 ft tall and 5 ft wide making it one of the smaller trees on our list.
Malus × moerlandsii ‘Profusion’ (crab apple)
The crab apple tree can spread 4-8 meters wide and end up 5 or 10 meters tall once established. It blooms in April with violet and red colours and flourishes with regular watering and full sun.
It’s a very stunning tree when it’s in full bloom with equally stunning list colour that attracts birds and butterflies. The fruit it produces is, of course, edible but are often too tart eaten raw but can make great jellies and jams.
Growing crab apple trees requires moist, well-drained soil slightly acidic is better. However, the tree itself will adapt to a wide range of soils. Once your tree becomes established it can tolerate drought much more effectively than a brand new tree. Any pruning that is done to the tree should be done at the end of winter, Springtime pruning will leave your tree susceptible to fireblight bacterium in the cuts so is best avoided if possible.
Magnola yellow river (Yulan Magnolia)
Known for its beautiful yellow flowers, this small tree is an ideal integration into any garden thanks to the sweet fragrance it produces and the butter yellow flowers you will see. The tree stands upright and cultivates the shape of a goblet with long flowers that can get up to 15cm when they mature but we have had one planted for around 5 years and its only about 8ft tall.
The design of the pedals looks very similar to a lily. Such trees create dramatic scenes in your Springtime garden as the yellow flowers fade softly to white. These trees can reach up to 5m tall and 3m wide once established. They require full sun to partial shade but will grow most prolifically if you keep the soil slightly acidic and moist. They do require well-draining soil like most trees for small gardens. Pruning of the Magnolia should be carried out in the middle of summer but it’s not essential for the tree unless you want to keep it smaller.
Betula utilis var. Jacquemontii (Himalayan birch)
The famous painting teacher Bob Ross regularly includes small trees that take on a very similar feel to the white-barked Himalayan birch tree. These stunning trees have some of the brightest, whitest bark you will find on any tree. Moreover, when their leaves are in full bloom it creates a pyramidal form with open branches.
The bark peels in a very exquisite fashion exposing shades of white and brown and black below. With these trees, you get green foliage that transforms itself into a bright yellow come fall. These trees require full sun and regular watering. They prefer having moist soil which is watered weekly, especially until established and can reach 10 or 12m in height but are often very slender.
Chamaerops humilis (Palm tree)
These beautiful tropical looking trees are referred to casually as the European fan palm and are used in temperate climates for landscaping because of how easily adaptable they are.
The shrub-like palm tree produces several stems from one base with leaves that fan out and reach up to 1.5 meters long and between 50 and 80 cm long for each subsequent leaflet. At the end of each, you will find needle-like spines so be careful when pruning.
They will develop flowers and subsequent groupings of fruit near the trunk every year although it is not fruit that you eat and in the UK it’s more common in the south where the weather is generally milder. Perfect for adding a tropical or desert feel to any small garden area, these palm trees are very well adapted and require little water or maintenance from you.