Tree Train Spotting


I use trains quite a lot to get about – they’re reasonably convenient and when running on time… make life much easier, no worries about parking etc. What I really enjoy about train travel is the great view you get of back gardens, it’s very voyeuristic and I get to see how people are “actually” developing their gardens.

What I have noticed over the last couple of years is there seems to be fewer trees in gardens – which is a real shame as trees add so much to a garden. So I’m on a bit of a mission to get trees back in favour for the garden – I know people worry about trees getting too large, creating too much shade and leaf drop but on the plus side they’re good for wildlife, add interest to the garden with height, colour, structure and the shade is very welcome on a hot sunny day! As with all plants it’s a case of choosing the right tree for you’re garden. Personally I go for “small” (15ft) or “medium” (15ft- 35ft) for the average back garden.

Recommendations in the small group include:

  • Crataegus “Paul’s Scarlet” – a hawthorne with lots and lots of double scarlet flowers in late spring, the leaves are small so come the autumn drop they seem to disappear so no raking up.
  • Malus “Red Sentinel” – a crab apple pale pink flowers in mid spring and red fruit in the autumn that stay on almost through the whole of winter.
  • Sorbus “Joseph Rock” – has white flowers in late spring and only creates a light shade but is mainly grown for it fantastic autumn leaf colour that goes from orange to red through to purple and bears orange – yellow berries.
  • Cercis siliquastrum – Judas Tree, can be multi-stemmed or single has beautiful large heart shaped leaves that are a blue – green in colour and turn butter yellow in the autumn but is noted for the magenta pea like flower in spring before the leaves come out.

And for the mediums try:

  • Paulownia tomentosa – the foxglove tree, it makes a fabulous specimen tree with enormous leaves and delicately scented lilac flowers just like foxgloves in late spring. By pollarding you make the leaves even bigger but you don’t get any flowers.
  • Liquidambar styraciflua- Sweet Gum, grown for its Acer like leaves and fabulous autumn colour that goes through a range of colours and last on the tree for a relatively long time.
  • Cornus kousa var. chinensis – flowering dogwood in early summer it gets covered in “flowers” which are actually bracts that open creamy white and then turn white and eventually red-pink.

As I’ve mentioned before now is a great time to plant hardy trees, make sure you dig the hole wide enough and deep enough, it’s worth adding some garden compost to the soil along with a good multi-purpose fertiliser. Also stake the tree for the first 2-3 years making sure you use proper tree ties that come with spacers so the trunk doesn’t rub on the stake. In spring and summer keep on top of watering until established if you want to make life easy use a “treegator” watering bag that goes round the trunk of the tree and is filled with water that then slowly seeps out. I’m all for making life easy!


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