“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses we must plant more trees.”
Between now and the end of February is a good time to plant a young tree. Young trees establish more quickly than older trees and planting them in the dormant season gives trees’ roots time to settle into their new homes watered by autumn and winter rain before starting their spring surge of above ground growth.
Choosing the right tree that earns its keep throughout the year and doesn’t out grow its welcome matters a lot. And like everything in the garden the rule is “Right plant, right place”. The hardworking Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree) with its evergreen dark green leaves, rough brown bark, white flowers and strawberry like red fruits needs an acid soil in full sun on a sheltered site. If those are the conditions in your garden it’s a good tree but if you don’t, the equally lovely Cercis siliquastrum(Judas tree) with its heart shaped leaves and bright pink pea-flowers followed by flattened deep purple pods will thrive in a much wider set of conditions – it doesn’t mind acid or alkaline soil, sun or partial shade or being in an exposed site. Choosing carefully at the offset can save the disappointment of an ailing tree or the dicey business of trying to relocate a tree growing in the wrong place.
Other good trees for a small garden (less than 10m fully grown) are: Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’, a crab apple with stunning golden yellow fruits in autumn and pretty white blossom opening from pink buds in the spring; Acer griseum with its papery chestnut brown peeling bark and brilliant red and orange leaves in autumn; and the hardy Sorbus vilmorinii with its flat heads of creamy white flowers, crimson fruit and fern like leaves turning purple in autumn.
It’s worth taking your time preparing the site where the tree is to be planted. Trees have a couple of deep roots and lots of fine roots nearer the surface for water and nutrients. These spread out beyond the canopy so you want to dig up and improve the soil over a wide area around where you want to plant the tree to give the roots plenty of room to grow out and anchor the tree. Enriching the soil with well rotted garden manure and adding mycorrhizal fungi pays great dividends over the lifetime of the tree. And once you’ve planted the tree don’t forget to water it for the first two to three years until it is established.