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Which tree(s) shall I go for?

I've recently moved into a new house, with a lovely medium-sized south facing garden. There's nothing in it except some decking as a patio and then the whole thing is turfed. Joy of joys, when I started digging away to create some flower beds, the soil is great - top soil for the first 2 or 3 foot (must have been put there by previous owner) then a bit trickier beneath but still no where near as bad as the water logged, sloping, clay rock I used to have.

(This has no relevance to my question but I had to share my joy - if you've ever had awful clay soil, you'll know).

I'm designing the garden and there will be among other things a (wildlife) pond, decent sized flower beds, a green house etc. What it also really needs are some trees. My conundrum is that I don't want to lose too much plant growing space - every tree I've ever known has meant nothing grows under it for quite a large distance because of the roots that suck out all the moisture and nutrients. Are there trees that have less invasive root systems in this way then others (and if so, any suggestions?) or are they all much the same. One extra requirement - they need to be good for wildlife :smile:

If you have any suggestions, would love to hear them!


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  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,444
    There are a few trees I wouldn't plant, for a start; cherries are beautiful, but their roots are close to the surface, and they sucker if you hit them with a spade.  Forest trees are clearly out - a sycamore, oak, beech or horse chestnut are wonderful in the right setting where they have plenty of room, but not in the average garden.  And anything which loves water, like willows and alder, will make a beeline for the drains with its roots...  conifers are a no-no too, dense shade and root competition.

    However, I'd definitely consider something like a rowan or crab apple - naturally smallish trees which therefore have a smaller root system, and fruit which the birds will love, as well as attractive blossom for you (and the insects!).  Amelanchier (aka snowy mespilus) would be another contender; or Spindle (Euonymus europaeus), which has great autumn colour and interesting (though poisonous) fruits.  

    It's going to be a tough choice!   :)
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 9,647
    My "go to" tree is amelanchier  :)
    I envy you that soil !
  • Liriodendron said:
    There are a few trees I wouldn't plant, for a start; cherries are beautiful, but their roots are close to the surface, and they sucker if you hit them with a spade.  Forest trees are clearly out - a sycamore, oak, beech or horse chestnut are wonderful in the right setting where they have plenty of room, but not in the average garden.  And anything which loves water, like willows and alder, will make a beeline for the drains with its roots...  conifers are a no-no too, dense shade and root competition.

    However, I'd definitely consider something like a rowan or crab apple - naturally smallish trees which therefore have a smaller root system, and fruit which the birds will love, as well as attractive blossom for you (and the insects!).  Amelanchier (aka snowy mespilus) would be another contender; or Spindle (Euonymus europaeus), which has great autumn colour and interesting (though poisonous) fruits.  

    It's going to be a tough choice!   :)
    AnniD said:
    My "go to" tree is amelanchier  :)
    I envy you that soil !

    Thank you both so much! This is exactly what I needed... I'm going to check them all out now. And yes Anni - I'm not exaggerating when I say I felt like I'd won the jackpot. I was so convinced it would be hard, compacted clay because the garden was just barren apart from grass - I actually previously posted on this forum before moving in to the house to ask advice about removing it all and replacing with manure etc. Literally couldn't believe it when I started digging! Might have even done a little victory dance. Thank you both again :) 
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 77,465
    Another vote for Amelanchier here ... spring flowers, fruit for birds and glorious autumn colour ... love it 😍 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • amancalledgeorgeamancalledgeorge South LondonPosts: 2,302
    You could always use some smaller forms of taxus baccata which shouldn't cast too much shadow but add lovely vertical interest or any small conifers like the wonderful Cryptomeria Japonica Elegans that changes colour three times a year and has beautifully soft foliage and you can prune it unlike most conifers.

    And so happy for you for those planting conditions!
    To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow
  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 3,224
    Do you have enough shelter for acers?  Yes, I have solid clay: congratulations on your new life!!!
  • Thank you all! I'm tempted to go with crab apple, rowan and also possibly Amelanchier as a start. I have no shelter at all at the moment so Acers are out for now (it gets quite windy in my garden!). Also like the look of the english yew, but I'd need to think a bit more on it's placement.

    I'm also considering a dwarf silver birch as I love the sound of the rustling leaves, as well as the bark of course. Are there any other trees known for their rustling sound? (can't think of a better description!)
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 SomersetPosts: 9,267
    You could try a beech hedge as a wind barrier. Their leaves are lovely and crisp during the winter so presumably rustle. 
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 9,647
    My dad has a beech hedge and it does rustle when the wind is in the right direction. Good colour at this time of year as well.
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,444
    If you want a Yew which is an interesting shape and colour, and doesn't get too big, I can recommend Taxus baccata 'Standishii'.  It makes a narrow column of golden foliage - I planted one to give an "accent" at the corner of the shed in my previous garden.

    https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-taxus-baccata-%60standishii-agm-con024121-113497514.html

    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
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