Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Branch out with a Tree for All Seasons

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Branch out with a Tree for All Seasons

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

THERE is nothing better in the garden to mark the seasons than a tree -- and no better time to plant one than now, during National Tree Week, which officially launches the start of the winter tree-planting season.

If you have a shady corner that needs transforming, plant a trio of silver birches to make striking white silhouettes that look ethereal even in winter gloom. Add a scattering of lilac crocuses and some springtime hellebores at their base, and you have a sylvan glade that looks positively magical in springtime. Alternatively, you could invest in just one spectacular multistemmed silver birch. Himalayan birch Betula utilis Moonbeam has wonderfully luminous white bark and dark green, glossy leaves, and is suitably compact for small gardens.

Ask any garden designer which small tree tops their list of great all-rounders, and the answer will inevitably be Amelanchier lamarckii. This is the happy-in-shade, elegantly spreading tree that, in spring, is smothered in starry white blossom accompanied by small, slim, copper-coloured leaves. The effect is breathtaking. Then, for an encore, it produces deep red fruits in summer, when the leaves are vibrant green before turning crimson and gold hues in autumn. If you just have room for one tree, this is the one to choose.

A crab apple is a good choice for any kind of small garden. It's a great mixer, suiting an informal border, a spot on the lawn or even a half-barrel on the patio or rooftop. None, in my opinion, is better than Malus Red Sentinel, which has a mass of pink-budded white flowers in spring but peaks in autumn, with fruit-like glossy red cherries hanging among the colourful foliage. Best of all, the crab apples stay on the tree for most of winter, making the finest festive baubles.

If you're going to plant an evergreen tree, make it a beauty: Arbutus unedo, the strawberry tree that has a shrubby habit and fittingly carries an RHS Award of Garden Merit. The glossy, rich green leaves are an attraction, and so is the rough, reddish bark -- but in autumn it produces clusters of bellshaped cream flowers just as last year's ripening yellow fruits are turning cherry-red. …

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