Top Tips for Choosing The Right Trees For Your Garden – Part Two

Following on from our first blog “Top Tips for Choosing the Right Trees for your Garden – Part One”, we wanted to share a few ideas about the forms and shapes of trees and how to use them in your garden.

Left: Multi-stem Amelanchier lamarckii in South Kensington Garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei, built by Landform. | Right: Roof-top trees in Sopwell House Hotel Gardens designed by Ann-Marie Powell, built by Landform.

Many of the tree species we use in our garden designs can be sold in different forms. If left unpruned all trees will grow to take their natural shape, but by pruning young trees over a number of years they can take on beautiful shapes which help to create different moods and effects in the garden.

The main forms are standard, feathered, multi-stem or topiary form i.e. pleached, roof-top, or box head.  Some trees can also be sold as cordons or espaliers which are developed to be trained against walls or to grow in lines, which is a very good way to cultivate fruit trees in small spaces.

1. Standard Trees

A standard tree is usually one that has a substantially clear stem, without any side branches, and it can have either a central leader branch or a branched head in the crown of the tree.

These trees can be planted individually within a border as focal points or used to create a dramatic, formal effect if planted as an avenue alongside a garden path i.e. Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ with its naturally teardrop shaped canopies looks impressive when planted in this way.

From Left to right: Olive trees in Surrey Garden designed by Amanda Patton, built by Landform; Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ in Berkshire Garden designed by Catherine MacDonald, built by Landform; Malus domestica variety in RHS Chelsea 2013 Homebase Show Garden designed by Adam Frost, built by Landform.

2. Multi-stem Trees

A multi-stem tree has at least two main stems growing from the root system at ground level. In this way the canopy of the tree is often broader and more-rounded, not unlike a shrub.

Multi-stem forms can be further pruned to create striking umbrella shaped canopies held above clear stems. This elegant shape can create a beautiful sculptural effect either on its own or as a sequence of trees. When underplanted with perennials and bulbs, they can create a soft, romantic effect. A perfect example of a species grown in this form, with year-round interest, and suitable for small or larger gardens, is Amelanchier lamarckii.

From left to right: Amelanichier lamarckii trees in Kensington Garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei, built by Landform; Betula utilis jacquemontii trees in Wimbledon Garden designed by Catherine MacDonald, built by Landform; Betula species in Old Brompton Garden designed by Darryl Osada, built by Landform.

3. Feathered Trees

Feathered trees usually have a central, upright leading stem with lateral growth spread evenly from ground level upwards. A good deciduous variety is Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’, which is an upright form of our native Hornbeam, which looks effective planted in an avenue. Another native species with a natural feathered form is the evergreen, shade tolerant Holly, Ilex aquifolium, useful for providing year round screening.

Another impressive example of a feathered tree is Ginkgo biloba in the Courtyard Gardens, Hampstead, designed by John Davies, built by Landform.

4. Topiary Forms

a. Pleached trees have a single vertical main stem, whereby the lateral growth has been trained to a frame and clipped to create a flat square canopy. This style of trees is ideal for screening and is usually planted in a continuous run.

Carpinus betulus as shown in the following gardens built by Landform, from left to right: the Courtyard Gardens designed by John Davies; Hampstead Garden designed by Stephen Woodham; St Margarets designed by Charlotte Harris.

b. Roof-shape trees, also have a single central stem, and the upper lateral branches have been trained to give a flat or “roof-shape” head. These kinds of trees are particularly effective grown in a series and work well in formal garden schemes.

Platanus acerifolia trees as shown in the following gardens built by Landform: Left: Sopwell House Gardens designed by Ann-Marie Powell. | Right: Wentworth Garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei.

c. Box Head trees, like the pleached and roof-shape trees, have been trained with a single central stem but the lateral growth has been trained into a box shape. Again, this style of tree suits formal schemes and work well planted in symmetrical lines.

Carpinus betulus as shown in the following gardens: Left; Brompton, London designed by Luciano Giubbilei, built by Landform. | Right: RHS Chelsea Flower 2009 Laurent Perrier Show Garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei, built by Crocus.

If you enjoyed reading this, see our first blog for tips on different kinds of trees that are suitable for small gardens, where we focused on trees for seasonal interest (i.e. blossom, autumn colour) and looked at the texture and colour of bark, as well as the differences between evergreen and deciduous tree species.

We hope to bring you a further and final blog on Environment & Position, and Exposure & Aspect to complete these Top Tips soon.

Photos credits: Steven Wooster, Derek St Romaine, Sopwell House Hotel, Luciano Giubbilei, Catherine MacDonald and Melanie Reynard.


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