Many of us will have been wishing for the forgiving shade of a tree during the recent UK heatwave. A mature tree can provide a cooling, sheltering shadow across your house, attract wildlife and make for a relaxing spot beneath which you can enjoy the results of an afternoon spent tending the barbecue.
But you can’t just nip down to the local DIY superstore and pick up a full-sized tree and dig it in to your flower bed. Buying trees takes some thought and consideration, with everything from pollination to positioning being important factors when deciding on which tree to buy and where to place it.
The first thing to do is look at and consider the size of your garden. Trees, just like kittens and puppies, tend to grow a fair amount over their lifetime and what may look like a manageable size now may look very different after five years of growth. So do ask the nursery or garden centre you are buying from some advice about how large the tree will grow. A good specialist should be able to point out trees based upon the space you have and organisations such as the Royal Horticultural Society offer sound advice on trees to choose if your space is limited.
Ornamental trees can provide colour to the garden, but many prefer the free produce that comes with owning fruit trees. Apple trees are most popular and easiest to maintain, as well as being more likely to be pollinated by a neighbour’s tree. Dwarf varieties are best for small, urban gardens. But if you have a large garden then you can choose any standard variety and pair it with a pollinating partner tree.
Many online tree retailers offer advice on which trees and varieties may work best for you as well as advice on pollination. The Woodland Trust also sells a great variety of native trees, including the juniper, whose berries are used to flavour gin.
Autumn is generally the best time to plant trees, so summer is a good time to get planning what you would like. Any good garden centre should have someone who can help you get your timing right. But be sure that you plant the tree as soon as you can once you have purchased it. Some small trees can be grown in pots, but many will get pot-bound very quickly and this could damage the roots.
Of course, you should also consider your house and that of your neighbours when you are planting trees. Even a small tree should be placed at least five metres (16 feet) from your home. Roots can grow surprisingly far, so if you are in any doubt you should consult a professional gardener or tree surgeon.
Be sure to water your tree regularly once it is planted firmly in the soil. Even when it is raining newly-planted trees need a little attention to keep them healthy. A little care at the start of your tree’s life in your garden should ensure that you can enjoy it for many years to come.