Choosing Shrubs and Trees for Your Garden
Trees and shrubs form the backbone of a garden, and they are necessary to add height and substance — not to mention their inherent beauty.
No garden is too small for a choice shrub, and even a tiny garden can usually benefit from a carefully selected tree. The key to success is discrimination, and the smaller the garden the more critical this becomes. If space is limited it is better to confine yourself to perhaps one specimen tree or a couple of outstanding shrubs set as lawn specimens, rather than attempt to cram too many into an overcrowded border.
The difference between a trees and shrubs can be subtle. Generally trees are considered to have a clean trunk for some distance, the main growth forming a head, but this is a simplification. Some plants, such as Acer negundo, can be grown as a shrub or a tree, depending on the method of training in the early years, while Cotoneaster x hybridus ‘Pendula’ is naturally a carpeting shrub with a spread of up to 1.8m (6 ft) and a height of less than 10cm (4 in), yet grafted on to a stem of C. frigidus it forms a small weeping tree.
Although a few large trees, such as beech, can be chosen for certain sized gardens, only those trees most likely to be planted in small or medium-sized gardens should be chosen initially, although some of these will eventually grow into large trees, and often growth will continue for some time and they will ultimately be considerably higher than heights usually offered in planting tables. The heights given in planting tables are those likely to be reached after 20 years in average conditions. But these should be treated with caution, as every garden is different, and there can be significant regional variations; they are most useful as a comparative guide.
There are so many choice trees and shrubs that there is little point in trying to grow one unsuitable for the soil and site. Always check that you can provide the right conditions.
Always prepare the ground well for trees and shrubs. They are permanent garden features and inadequate preparation cannot easily be made good afterwards. Although container-grown specimens can be planted at almost any time of the year, provided the ground is not frozen or waterlogged, the best time to transplant deciduous trees and shrubs is whenever the weather is suitable from September to March, but evergreens are usually planted in September and October or March and April. If a tree or shrub is not an evergreen, it should be treated as deciduous.
Propagating your own trees is fun, but a long-term exercise. Most shrubs, however, can be propagated easily and many will flower in a year or two, and even make quite respectable bushes in about five years, although there are naturally wide variations between species.
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