Not every gardener has the space for anything other than small trees, and they are one of the most useful types of landscaping trees for a number of other reasons as well.
Used in conjunction with larger specimens, small trees add a sense of scale as well as providing a transition to the larger growing trees. However it is in the smaller gardens that are becoming more common that naturally smaller growing trees are indispensable.
Small gardens present landscaping challenges, and choosing small trees for smaller spaces if one of them. One of the easiest solutions is to find a tree that will grow well in a container. Container grown plants will have constricted root systems and naturally be smaller and slower growing. Or choose a dwarf Japanese Maple, like the one pictured right.
You do have choices and simply you have 5 alternatives.
- Look for a naturally small growing growing tree. Evergreen or deciduous they are available and will fit many garden designs.
- Choose trees that may naturally be a little large, however take well to pruning, often these are evergreen types.
- Look for tree and shrubs with a natural upright or ‘columnar’ habit. These types take up less space yet can still provide a green background and offer some privacy. Some well known hedging plants have this habit. Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’ is an example, a narrow box hedge.
- Finally, an age old solution to small garden design is espaliered trees. Simply put these are pruned to a ‘flat’ growth habit. We are used to seeing this with fruit trees, however even camellias can be pruned in this manner if required.
- Look for grafted weeping trees. These are the ones that simply will stay at very close to the height you buy them, they will grow out and down, and only marginally upwards.
Our Best ‘Naturally’ small trees.
Evergreen ’Small Trees’
- Lagerostemia indica – The Crepe Myrtle, an excellent small evergreen tree that provides light shade. Generally 6 – 8m however smaller cultivars are available. They can also be pruned to size.
- Magnolia grandiflora – Look for the cultivars Kay Parris, Little Gem and Teddy Bear. They are smaller growing than the species, however over time can reach 10m. All can easily be pruned to size.
- Magnolia ‘Fairy’ cultivars (syn Michelia) – Will reach around 4m in height, very easy to prune.
- Olea europaea – Olive trees are another small tree that will provide light shade. They will get to around 9m in ‘ideal’ conditions, usually smaller to 5m.
- Ulmus parvifolia – This is the Chinese Elm, it will get to 10m in ideal conditions, however in the right position, near the rear of the garden or close to a fence can work well.
- Feijoa sellowiana – This is the ‘Pineapple Guava’, very rarely seems to get above 4m in height.
- Acacia cognata – This much underused species has a number of smaller named cultivars that make excellent trees for smaller gardens. A pendulous or weeping habit and attractive soft foliage. ‘Lime Magik’ is one to look for.
- Acmena Smithii var. minor is a small growing Lilly Pilly reaching from 3 – 5 m depending on conditions. Easy to prune
- Picea abies Reflexa – Interesting conifer with a weeping habit. Use a permanent stake to the required height. It will reach the height and then cascade back down.
- Fortunella – Better known as Cumquat trees they reach around 3m in height and have fruit as well.
- Garrya elliptic – This is the ‘Silk Tassel Tree, reaches around 3 – 5m in height but does spread.
- Styrax japonicus – Japanese Snowdrop Tree reaches around 7m in height.
- Trochodendron aralioides – Also known as the Wheel Tree reaches around 4 – 5 m in height, excellent in light shade.
Deciduous ‘Small Trees’
- Acer palmatum’Dissectum Seiryu’ – This is just one of the many Japanese Maples that are suited to smaller gardens. Slow growing and reaching around 3 – 5 m in height. Lots of other cultivars in the Acer palmate group.
- Magnolia dedudata – Also known as the ‘Yulan Tree’ is naturally small growing reaching around 3 – 4 m in height. Beautiful white flowers. In warmer climates this can be semi – evergreen.
- Diospyros kaki – This is the Persimmon tree, it can reach around 7m in height, mostly smaller. A few dwarf cultivars can also be found ‘Jiro’ is one.
- Cercis canadensis Forest Pansy Handsome small deciduous tree with interest in all seasons. This form has deep reddish purple foliage and small pink flowers. Sunny situation
- Cornus alternifolia – The Pagoda Dogwood. Reaches around 6m ni height
- Cornus florida – Flowering Dogwood.
- Euonymus europeus – European Spindle Tree A large deciduous shrub or small tree, which can reach 6m