Smaller Trees For Our Gardens

An American Cornus in a garden in Dublin

Smaller  Trees For Our Gardens

(Less Than 20 feet or 6.1 metres)


By Howard Drury


Factors to Consider

Trees are an essential part of our environment and without them, we would die. Choosing the right tree to plant involves many factors, such as the type of tree you would like and the site it is expected to grow in successfully. Often our gardens are simply not big enough to accommodate many of our larger trees, the aim here is to introduce you to more suitable trees for a smaller situation. Trees never grow at a uniform rate of growth year after year, some may appear to sit for many years before rapidly accelerating into growth. Others do the reverse. Also, trees growing in different areas of Britain respond differently according to their situation and the prevailing environment. All of this must be taken into account when choosing suitable trees.

Planning and Choice of Trees

Trees are generally long-lived, so it is important to choose the right tree for the right place.

Aspect and location

Soil type, sandy free draining or heavy clay, wet or dry, waterlogged at certain times and rainfall

Ultimate space available for good growing conditions

Will other factors such as nearby buildings, walls etc affect the trees' growth?

What shape of tree will be best, narrow upright column or broad spreading crown?

Evergreen or deciduous

Will my choice be beneficial to wildlife?

Planting Tips

Deciduous trees are best planted during their dormant season from November to March. There is some evidence now that bare root trees do make for a better root system.

Evergreens establish best during their period of natural root development in late spring (April/May) and early Autumn, (September/ October). Pot grown evergreens have a higher rate of success than lifted and root balled specimens, which may initially appear cheaper but have a lower rate of establishment.

In both cases, smaller specimens seem to establish better and go on to grow faster than larger specimens.

Where pot grown subjects are planted never drive a stake through a rootball, use a short stake angled into the prevailing wind and suitable adjustable tree ties. High planting may be advantageous on heavy wet soils, while making a ring of soil may aid watering on dry sandy soils. Supplementary watering during the first 1-2 years during dry periods by generously applying water is best recommended.

My List of Trees For Smaller Gardens

This list is personal and there are many others that could be included. Ultimate sizes will vary according to many factors mentioned above, the following is a guide 10 years after planting. by click on a linked plant name, it will take you to a description and supplier for more information. At the bottom of the list there are several suppliers who have good reputations for supplying quality plants, there will be others, but these are from experience reliable.

Plant Name                                             Common Name(s)                              Height (ft.)      

Acer circinatum                                                                            vine maple                                                                                    20'      

Acer circinatum ‘Monroe’                                                            cut leaf vine maple                                                                      10'       tree

Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’                                                       red-bark vine maple                                                                   12'       tree

Acer crataegifolium                                                                      hawthorn maple                                                                           15'       tree

Acer crataegifolium ‘Veitchii’                                                      variegated hawthorn maple                                                        8'         tree

Acer griseum                                                                                 paperbark maple                                                                          18'       tree

Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’                                                   fern leaf full moon maple                                                            10'       tree

Acer palmatum ‘Beni-schichihenge’                                         variegated Japanese maple                                                        10'       tree

Acer palmatum ‘Emperor I’                                                         red Japanese maple                                                                      18'       tree

Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’                                                            Japanese maple                                                                              10'       tree

Acer palmatum ‘Orangeola’                                                       red lace leaf Japanese maple                                                       4'         tree

Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’                                                        green Japanese maple                                                                  15'       tree

Acer palmatum ‘Red Dragon’                                                     red lace leaf Japanese maple                                                      4'         tree

Acer palmatum ‘Seiryû’                                                               cut leaf Japanese maple                                                              10'       tree

Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’                                                             dwarf red Japanese maple                                                             4'         tree

Acer palmatum ‘Shindeshojo’                                                   Japanese maple                                                                                8'         tree

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’                                                  lion's head Japanese maple                                                           6'         tree

Acer palmatum ‘Tamuke yama’                                                 red lace leaf Japanese maple                                                       4'         tree

Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’                                                          floating clouds Japanese maple                                                  7'         tree

Acer palmatum ‘Viridis’                                                               green lace leaf Japanese maple                                                  4'         tree

Acer saccharum ‘Barrett Cole’                                                   sugar maple                                                                                     12'       tree

Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’                                                     golden full moon maple                                                                 8'         tree

Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’                                          autumn moon maple                                                                      8'         tree

Acer sieboldianum                                                                       Siebold's maple                                                                               15'       tree

Acer tegmentosum                                                                      Manchurian snake bark maple                                                       20'       tree

Acer tegmentosum ‘Joe Witt’                                                      Manchurian snake bark maple                                                       20'       tree

Acer triflorum                                                                                three flower maple, rough bark maple                                         18'       tree

Acer ‘Warrenred’                                                                           painted maple                                                                                   20'       tree

Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’                         hybrid serviceberry                                                                          20'       tree

Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Cole's Select’                                 hybrid serviceberry                                                                           15'       tree

Azara microphylla                                                                         box leaf azara, chinchin                                                                    15'       tree

Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis                                    Chinese red birch                                                                               20'       tree

Betula nigra                                         river birch                                            15'       tree

Betula nigra ‘Cully’                              white bark river birch                          15'       tree

Carpinus caroliniana                           American hornbeam                           10'       tree

Carpinus japonica                               Japanese hornbeam                           8'         tree

Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’              Golden catalpa                                   20'       tree

Chionanthus retusus                           Chinese fringe tree                             12'       tree

Chionanthus virginicus                       American fringe tree                           10'       tree

Cladrastis kentukea                            yellow wood                                         10'       tree

Cornus alternifolia                               pagoda dogwood                                15'       tree

Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’             variegated pagoda dogwood              15'       tree

Cornus controversa ‘June Snow’       giant dogwood                                    15'       tree

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’          variegated giant dogwood                  15'       tree

Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Milky Way’       Chinese dogwood                   18'       tree

Cornus kousa ‘Miss Satomi’               red flowering kousa dogwood             15'       tree

Cornus mas                                        Cornelian cherry                                 10'       tree

Cornus ‘Eddie's White Wonder’          hybrid white dogwood                         20'       tree

Corylus colurna                                   Turkish filbert                                      12'       tree

Cotinus obovatus                                smoke tree                                          15'       tree

Crataegus × lavalleei Lavalle             hawthorn                                             20'       tree

Davidia involucrata                             dove tree, handkerchief tree               15'       tree

Davidia involucrata ‘Sonoma’             dove tree, handkerchief tree               15'       tree

Fagus sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’             fern-leaf beech                                    20'       tree

Fagus sylvatica ‘Purple Fountain’      columnar weeping copper beech       20'       tree

Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’              maidenhair tree                                   15'       tree

Ginkgo biloba ‘Tubifolia’                     maidenhair tree                                   20'       tree

Magnolia denudata                             lily tree                                                 12'       tree

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Edith Bogue’    southern magnolia                              18'       tree

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Victoria’            southern magnolia                              18'       tree

Magnolia kewensis ‘Wada's Memory’ hybrid magnolia                                  15'       tree

Magnolia kobus                                  Kobus magnolia                                  15'       tree

Magnolia loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’   pink Lobner magnolia                         15'       tree

Magnolia macrophylla                         bigleaf magnolia                                 20'       tree

Magnolia sieboldii                               Oyama magnolia                                10'       tree

Magnolia stellata ‘Waterlily’                star magnolia                                      12'       tree

Magnolia virginiana ‘Jim Wilson’        sweet bay magnolia                            18'       tree

Magnolia wilsonii                                Wilson's magnolia                               15'       tree

Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’                            hybrid magnolia                                  15'       tree

Magnolia ‘Galaxy’                               hybrid magnolia                                  20'       tree

Magnolia ‘Pegasus’                            hybrid magnolia                                  10'       tree

Malus toringo ssp. sargentii ‘Tina’      dwarf Sargent's crabapple                  5'         tree

Malus transitoria ‘Schmidtcutleaf’      cutleaf crabapple                                10'       tree

Malus ‘Adirondack’                             flowering crabapple                            9'         tree

Malus ‘Jewelcole’ RED JEWEL ™     flowering crabapple                            8'         tree

Malus ‘Strawberry Parfait’                  flowering crabapple                            9'         tree

Nyssa sylvatica                                   black gum                                           18'       tree

Oxydendrum arboreum                      sourwood                                            12'       tree

Parrotia persica                                  Persian ironwood                                15'       tree

Parrotia persica ‘Vanessa’                  Persian ironwood                                15'       tree

Prunus yedoensis                               Yoshino cherry                                    15'       tree

Prunus yedoensis ‘Akebono’              Akebono cherry                                  15'       tree

Prunus ‘Berry’ CASCADE SNOW Japanese flowering cherry                      18'       tree

Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’                   weeping willowleaf pear                     10'       tree

Quercus garryana                               garry oak                                             15'       tree

Quercus palustris                                pin oak                                                20'       tree

Quercus palustris ‘Pringreen’ GREEN PILLAR columnar pin oak                 20'       tree

Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’                      whitebeam                                          10'       tree

Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’                         mountain ash                                      15'       tree

Stewartia monadelpha                        orangebark stewartia                          15'       tree

Stewartia pseudocamellia                  Japanese stewartia                             12'       tree

Styrax japonicus ‘Emerald Pagoda’   Japanese snowbell                             10'       tree

Styrax obassia                                    fragrant snowbell                                10'       tree

Trachycarpus fortunei                         windmill palm                                      8'         tree

Trochodendron aralioides       wheel tree       8'         tree


List of Suppliers

Ashwood Nurseries Run by John Massey MBE VMH with a specialist tree section

Barcham The Tree Specialists

Bluebell Nursery and Arboretum Family run nursery with adjacent arboretum

Chew Valley Trees

Frank P Matthews The UKs largest tree supplier run by same family since 1901

Majestic Trees

Van den Berk UK Limited

Image is designed and maintained by Darren Hodson © 2022, The Drurys