4 November 2012 - 2:12pm

Ideas for gorgeous trees for small gardens and how to plant them.

We've some lovely Autumn colour here at Charnwood. The dwarf Japanese Cherry Prunus incisca 'Kojo-no'mai' is currently gorgeous shades of red and yellow and the Euonymous alatus a stunning ruby colour. Both are little, slow growing trees, so ideal for smaller gardens. Acers are also performing well here and will thrive in a spot sheltered from winds and, depending a bit on the variety, in fairly acid soil. We also have a medlar, a really trouble free and compact tree with beautiful, simple white flowers in spring and clear yellow leaves in Autumn. They are self fertile, so you don't need to plant more than one to get the rather weird fruit. Choosing the right tree is really important, they can add so much to a garden, but conversely cause so much grief and expense if you get it wrong. It really is worth doing a bit of research to see what conditions you will be planting into: soil, aspect, dry or damp, how much space there is and how much time you can give to looking after your newly planted friend. One of my absolute pet hates is to see a tree pruned to look like a neat lollipop, especially when it's natural form is graceful and elegant. Pick the right tree or shrub and let it do it's thing. The RHS website has really good guidance on when and how to prune properly to keep your tree looking good. Now is the perfect time to plant a tree, shrub, or hedge. Bare root is probably the best and cheapest way to buy, especially if you are hedge planting or buying in bulk, but you must be able to protect the roots and keep them constantly moist; don't keep them hanging about. Container grown is easier, if usually more expensive. Recent research now suggests that you should not plant trees too deep, their roots grow quite close to the surface so it's best to dig a hole that is about three times as wide as the diameter of the root spread but no deeper than the root ball. There is no need to add compost unless your soil is really poor: in fact the RHS suggest it can be harmful as it leads to the soil settling too much and the tree drowning. Fork over the base of the hole and spread the bare roots out carefully on a small mound of soil, make sure you have the planting depth right by placing a cane across the hole. Firm the soil back in really well with your heel, water copiously and mulch to conserve moisture. Keep the tree really well watered, it can take a couple of seasons at least to get going, especially in our heavy Tollerton soil. You can take hardwood cuttings at this time of year – shrubs that would be good to have a go with are viburnum, dogwoods, willow and species roses. Dig a little trench in your vegetable garden, put a sharp spade about 15 cm into the soil to make a slit. Cut some sections of healthy growth, about 30cm long, and nip out the soft tip. Slide the cuttings in to about two thirds of their length. Firm the sides of the trench and leave them to get on with it, it may be next spring before you see signs of life. November can be a gloomy month. Cheer yourself up by browsing the seed catalogues to get some ideas for next year's garden. You can make wonderful plans without getting cold and wet and, who knows, you may even do it! Photos all taken at 'Charnwood' late October to November 2012 from left to right: Prunus incisca 'Kojo-no-mai' over a prostrate juniper; Euonymus alatus; Cornus elegantissima with Berberis' Harlequin'.