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Small garden tree suitability

I'm considering planting a tree in our garden. It's very overlooked and it's south facing so it gets baked in summer.

I'd like a small tree that provides some screening and light shade. The problem is our garden is very small, it's only around 25ft long and 30ft wide.

I'm thinking about a cercis canadensis for the red leaves. Would this be too big for our little garden?

I can't think of any other small red leaves trees other than acers, but I already have a few of these and they're so slow growing that it'll be years before they provide any shade or screening.

My alternative at the moment is liquidambar gumball, so at least I'd get red leaves in autumn, but I'm open to suggestions!

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  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 7,726

    Acers dont like south facing they naturaly grow in wooded areas.Screening we have bamboos in pots, ever green.

  • Most of my acers are in pots. Two of them get a fair bit of shade because they don't reach above the north facing fence, which is why they don't provide any screening.

    The other gets sun until early afternoon but it doesn't seem to bother it! It suffered a little last year from late frosts in April.

    My nan broke the rules and has one in full sun and it's fantastic, but it's older than me! I can't wait 35 years, I doubt we'll live here that long!

  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 4,037

    How about an Amelanchier? Blossom in the spring, berries and red leaves in the autumn. A very well behaved small tree. I keep mine to about 11-12 foot. 

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,632

    There is nothing wrong with Cercis Canandensis, but the leaves can form a really thick dark canopy and their shape tend to be quite broad. For your size garden, it will do fine, but I don't think it's suitable if you want a lighter feel. What about flowering cherries. Prunus Sargentii and the Rancho which is a little more suitable to smaller spaces are medium growing so will grow faster than your Acers. 

  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 5,547

    I should think liquidamber is a bit too big, but the cercis should be OK. You may need to shape it quite carefully to get a single 'stem' and a canopy, rather than a shrubby shape.

    Amelanchier are lovely small trees if your soil is suitable

    A sorbus tree might be OK - rather tall perhaps but usually fairly upright and lovely autumn colour, leaf and berry. A crab apple would give a broader canopy but there are plenty of quite small ones. Eating apples don't have the autumn leaf colour, but you get the apples in compensation. Or a cherry - prunus 'kursar' could have the right colours for you? 

    Soil type is quite key if you want thriving tree image

    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • What about a Prunus padus 'Colorata'? Or Prunus cerasifera? And then there is Malus x purpurea 'Eleyi' .

  • And Malus Royalty. 

  • Not red but have you considered a standard variagated privet/ligustrum.  Very much underloved in my opinion.  Evergreen and you can keep the round shape if you like.  The trunk takes up no room at all and the top can be grown as you like.  Fast growing and provides good non heavy screening all year round and loves the sun.  

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  • I will look at the prunus' you've all suggested, thanks! 

    I do already have an amelanchier obelisk in a big pot so one option could be to put that in the ground. It does look gorgeous in spring but it's still a baby at the moment so it could take a while to grow above the fence. 

    The soil is clay-ish but not very heavy clay. I dug in lots of manure and the remains of some small gravel that was already there when we bought the house a few years ago.

    Does a liquidambar get bigger than a cercis? The website I looked at said it only gets to 4m and the cercis said 10m eventually!

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