I have been gardening in my rural town garden for four years and I am still trying to decide on a tree for a particular part of the garden. There are trees, some that I planted and the old, existing apple tree, which I hope will survive and keep on producing apples for many years. I planted two of the Redlove apples trees and a Victoria plum. Oh and I forgot I have also planted two sorbus or rowan trees. So you would think the garden is now full, especially as it is a small garden. It feels very open and spacious now, so I don’t want to crowd the space, but I do want at least one ornamental tree, that will shield me from the houses at the back.
In my first garden in London (a much smaller town garden than the one I currently garden, I planted – some 30 years ago – a whitebeam, Sorbus aria. This has a rounded shape and grows to be a small to medium-sized tree (up to 10m), which is probably a bit too large for this garden. But if you have the space it is a very attractive and ornamental tree. In particular, Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’ is a good choice. Its young foliage has a creamy, white felted texture, which deepens to grey-green in summer. It has good autumnal colour. I visited the National Collection of Sorbus at Blagdon Hall in autumn a couple of years ago. It was amazing to see so many wonderful specimens of sorbus at the same time. And it was just the right time of year for seeing so many wonderful fruits.
Fruit trees – well I really want a quince (Cydonia oblonga) for its wonderful butter-yellow fruits in autumn and its delicate white flowers in spring. ‘Vranja’ is most frequently offered by seed companies who also sell fruit trees, bushes and canes. Marshalls is offering ‘Serbian Gold’, a quince described as productive but less vigorous than other cultivars. Quinces are self-fertile and they are pollinators for pears, if you have the space for another fruit tree! I do have a Sibley’s Patio Quince in a large container… but it hasn’t fruited yet.
I have planted one of the new selections of apricot that are suited to our cooler, wet climate. These all have the letters ‘cot’ in their name, such as ‘Goldcot’, Tomcot’. Flavourcot’. They are delicious and crop abundantly. But so far no fruit…I am waiting patiently.
I am still eating mulberry jam made by me from the fruits of my wonderful mulberry in my previous garden. So, clearly, it would be wonderful to have the space to grow a mulberry here too. But probably not for this garden, alas.
At one time I thought I wanted a birch, but now I don’t need one as the birch in the neighbouring garden, is part of my shared landscape. I think after my many visits to Westonbirt Arboretum, in Gloucestershire, I am probably more in love with Japanese maples than with most other trees. I really like the feathery foliage of Acer palmatum ‘Seiryu’.
The tree I am going to plant in spring is a Liquidambar styraciflua or sweet gum. Its foliage is shaped like maple leaves and they take on the most awesome colours in autumn. The tree is roughly conical in shape and may get to about 20m tall, but not for some time.