Planning a garden in a small space has its challenges, not the least of which is finding the best trees for small gardens. Luckily, there are many lovely small specimen trees to tuck into even the tiniest of city gardens! Many of these would even work in a courtyard or on a roof terrace where space is even more limited. When you can only fit in a few, you need trees that can deliver year-round interest, and we have lots to choose from. Below are perhaps the best of the best. We cover suggestions for deciduous, evergreen and topiary trees for small gardens.
1. Deciduous trees for small gardens
Prunus Amanogawa Japanese Flowering Cherry
Nothing can equal a tree covered in magnificent blossoms, and there are many small specimens which will pack a big punch, especially in spring. Prunus Amanogawa Japanese Flowering Cherry, reaching a mature height of 5 metres in 20 years, will be a stunning sight in April and May when it is covered in fragrant, pale pink double blossoms. In autumn the leaves turn a brilliant orange-red, and even in winter the graceful shape of its bare branches adds visual interest.
Cornus Florida White Cloud
Another spring beauty is the Cornus Florida White Cloud (Flowering Dogwood). In April and May it produces large quantities of showy, pure white bracts, and then settles down into a background foliage until the leaves turn a lovely red in autumn. Its bright red fruits will remain on the tree into the early winter, attracting birds to your garden. This little beauty will grow to a mature height of 6 metres.
Sorbus Aucuparia (Rowan or Mountain Ash)
Sorbus Aucuparia, commonly known as Rowan or Mountain Ash, is another great choice for your small garden, especially in a city, as it is very tolerant of pollution. Its spring clusters of white flowers are followed by clusters of glossy orange berries in autumn, which will attract birds to your garden.
Crataegus Laevigata Paul’s Scarlet
Red Hawthorn Paul’s Scarlet is a beautiful species native to the UK. Growing to a mature height and spread of 4-8 metres in 20 to 50 years, it will easily fit into a small space. Its glossy leaves are lovely throughout the season, and in spring it is covered in clusters of small, double red flowers, followed by berries that birds love to eat.
Amelanchier × Grandiflora Ballerina will also grow to 4-8 metres, making it another great small garden specimen tree. Its abundant white flowers of early spring are followed by red and purple fruits in summer, and in autumn its leaves turn orange and red, adding late season colour.
Cercis Canadensis Ruby Falls is a North American native which is perfectly suited to small gardens. Also known as redbud, this weeping cultivar grows only 1.5- 2.5 metres tall and wide. The drooping branches are covered in early spring with deep pink flowers, followed by dark red leaves heart-shaped leaves up to 10 cm in length, which mature to a deep purple in summer. This little lovely is easy to fit in to even the smallest garden!
Japanese maples are rightly valued for their stunning foliage and graceful shape, and Acer Palmatum Bloodgood is one of the best. Growing to a height and spread of 5 metres, its finely-cut leaves remain red throughout the season, turning even more brilliant in autumn. In a container or in a sheltered spot in a rock garden, this tree will be a stand-out. Possibly the smallest Japanese maples are the Acer Dissestum varieties such as the very small Acer Dissectum Garnet Feathered, reaching 2 metres on maturity.
Betula Jacquemontii Snow Queen is a lovely silver birch tree prized for its graceful shape and beautiful bark. Growing to 7 metres and only 3.5 metres wide, it be easy to find a spot for this specimen tree, and the year-round appeal of its peeling, pure white bark, makes it a great choice when you can only fit in a few trees. If you prefer with a weeping nature, Weeping Silver Birch Betula Utilis Pendula is a good choice that won’t get overly large.
Standard trees by their very shape are ideal for small gardens and can be easily kept to a specific size. Lots more examples include Catalpa Bignonioides Nana or Dwarf Indian Bean Tree or Full Standard Pyrus Calleryana Chanticleer Pear.
2. Evergreen Trees for Small Gardens
It’s a good idea to mix in some evergreen specimens for year-round interest, and even in a small garden you have plenty to choose from. An interesting choice is Arbutus Unedo or Strawberry Tree. These particular specimens have been trained over time as half and full standard trees with a bushy crown on a long clear stem. Native to Ireland, this bushy evergreen grows to only 4-8 metres in height and spread in 20 to 50 years. It is notable not just for its dark green leaves, but for its red fruits, which ripen as the new white flowers appear in the autumn. Happy to grow in a container, this versatile small tree has much to recommend it!
Magnolia Grandiflora Little Gem is a hardy evergreen magnolia is a dwarf version of the full size Magnolia Grandiflora. It grows to only 6 metres tall and with a spread of 3 metres, giving it a small footprint. Its oval, glossy, dark green leaves are beautiful year-round, and produces large, fragrant white flowers in late summer and autumn.
Abies Koreana is a compact and attractive conifer. This little tree has shiny, dark-green leaves and unique upright purple-blue cones, adding considerable visual interest. Suitable for planting in sun or shade, it makes a great addition to your small garden!
3. Topiary Trees for Small Gardens
Topiary Trees are a natural fit in a small space, and we have plenty to choose from. One of the most spectacular topiary choices for a small gardens or indeed any garden is a Japanese Cloud Tree. These can be expensive as these are mature trees nurtured, pruned and shaped in the Japanese Niwaki style over many years.
Another good choice of tree for a small garden is the Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana Alumigold or False Cypress half-standard Topiary Tree. Its green-gold foliage, shaped into a round crown above a slender stem, will be beautiful year-round!
Our Topiary Twisted Stem Bay Trees have a lot of visual interest for a small space. These half and three-quarter standard trees will take up hardly any space but will make a big impression.
One of the most classic evergreens has been shaped into a topiary bringing year-round beauty is a Holly Topiary Tree such as Ilex Nellie Stevens. It features the classic glossy dark green holly leaves, without the sharp edges. Even better, there is no need to bother with a male plant as this cultivar will produce berries on its own!
Whether you’re looking for sculptural, architectural qualities in the trees to grace you small garden or spectacular blossoms or fiery autumn colour, you’re in luck. When it comes to finding trees which will give structure to your small space, the real problem is deciding between the many possible choices!