The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
– Ancient Chinese Proverb
This Chinese proverb reminds us that there is never a wrong time to plant a tree. The years slip by and if only you had seized the day, that little acorn could now be on its way to a mighty and impressive oak.
Planting trees are not only good for the environment but it is lovely to watch them grow and blossom, literally. It is also a popular way to mark a commemorative event or remember a loved one. If you don’t have acres of space, don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be in your own garden or back yard.
Some exotic species to consider for your garden
One of the most popular choices is the Magnolia, it is almost impossible to drive down a residential road without seeing a Magnolia tree and they never fail to impress. The goblet-shaped flowers are unmistakable and create a spectacular display relative to the size of the tree.
Make a statement with the flowering Amanagawa Cherry which generates an explosive firework torch of spring colour, perfect for small spaces or ideal in pairs or rows where symmetry is intended. The blossom is dense and clustered in a haphazard fashion comprising pretty, open, circular flowers in pink ranging from soft blush rose to quite a deep candy colour.
If you are looking for shaping as part of your garden design then consider the Catalpa Biginioides, otherwise known as the Indian Bean tree. Huge broad pale green leaves create spectacular silhouettes complemented by white bell-shaped flowers later in the season tinted with vibrant purple and orange.
A boost for Britain – go native
No, we are not talking Brexit here but supporting our own native trees and planting one in your back garden. Sounds daunting? It doesn’t have to be. Here are some of the most iconic British trees you can aim for.
- Beech – an all-time garden favourite, Beech is one of the most popular choices for a residential garden offering a range of beautiful colourful foliage ranging from a deep purple to vivid lime green. Beech trees are available in varied shapes, weeping, rounded or upright and are legendary for attracting insects, butterflies and birds;
- Holly – such a joy to see the vivid red berries and sharp, spiky leaves of this winter favourite on a dull cold day or beautifully displayed against a snowy white landscape. There is nothing quite like gathering your own holly to bring indoors for the festive season;
- Hawthorn – with its other name as the Fairy Tree, Hawthorn has an alluring pink/white blossom in May followed by little red berries called haws in the height of summer. Hawthorn will grow in almost any soil and is a huge draw for bees and dormice whilst the berries attract migrating birds;
- Silver birch – quick growing if you are in a hurry and fabulously mysterious with its stark, silvery beauty, ideal for a contemporary look or an urban garden. The sap can be made into wine for those who are into their home grown produce;
- Horse Chestnut – everyone thinks of the horse chestnut as the tree of autumn because of the crop of conkers, but the horse chestnut is a spectacular and beautifully shaped tree throughout all the seasons particularly when it is displaying its stunning candelabra blossom of pink and white flowers. Originally a native of the Balkans as far back as the 16th century, the Horse Chestnut has become synonymous with English country gardens.
If space is at a premium
Why not consider a climbing plant, a shrub or tree which doesn’t take up a lot of space. It can add interest to a dull perimeter, cover something you would like to disguise or enhance an existing feature like a pergola.
Climbers can climb on buildings, walls and can even be introduced to established mature trees to add variation. You should consider the space required based on the eventual size of the plant, the aspect and whether your choice likes sunlight or shade. Does the plant prefer a sheltered location or is it hardy enough to cope with an exposed situation? Finally, does it self-cling or will it require support and tying.
Some popular choices include Clematis, Honeysuckle, Roses and Wisteria all offering fabulous colourful blooms at different times of the year. Learn more from the Royal Horticultural Society about which is the best choice for your garden and how to plant it.
Go potty! The ultimate instant takeaway tree
Container plants, instant trees are all the rage, popping up outside designer restaurants and swish wedding receptions. And they are also ideal for small spaces or terraces, adding diversity and height to mini gardens and best of all, they are portable, genius! Popular picks are bay trees, Japanese maple and dwarf apple or pear.
Choosing a pot is a whole thing all of its own, just make sure before you fall in love with something, that it is going to be big enough to accommodate the root ball of your chosen tree. If you are pushed for time, then you can buy the whole thing readymade leaving you with the only task of deciding exactly where you want to put it.
Potted trees are very popular at the moment and so you will be spoilt for choice when you go shopping at your local garden centre.
Commemorative and memorial tree planting
Planting a tree is a special way to remember a loved one or to celebrate a significant occasion or even to mark the birth of a child and you can think beyond your own garden. The National Trust runs a scheme in Hatfield Forest. In order to be authentic to the age and history of this woodland landscape, certain varieties of tree will be suggested including ash, oak, hornbeam and field maple. People who would like to plant a particular type of tree which would not sit well here can consider other National Trust sites where their choice will be more fitting to a different environment. The seedlings used in Hatfield Forest have been gathered from existing trees on that site and nurtured in a nursery until they are mature enough to transplant. All tree plantings are recorded and this can make a lovely gift for someone special, there for all eternity.
Closer to home
The National Forest is in collaboration with the Air Ambulance for Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire to create an Air Ambulance Memorial Woodland. This is a new planting initiative in which people are invited to plant a tree in memory of a loved one and thus help to create a new wood in the heart of the forest near Ashby de la Zouch. Here you can actually choose the sapling and plant it yourself on one of the special tree planting days, assisted by volunteers for the charity and foresters. These days are held in March and November. Or, they will plant one on your behalf.
Leicester City Council has a tree planting scheme in one of the many local authority owned parks and green spaces in Leicester itself. Share your tree with the community, enhance your local environment and help wildlife all whilst leaving a lasting memory to a special person or commemoration of a special occasion.