Trees for Smaller Gardens

If you live in a home with a small garden you probable don’t even consider adding a tree to it. However there are many trees for small gardens and every garden would benefit from at least one.

What is a tree?

From our point of view a tree is a hardy woody plant with a clear stem or trunk. Imagine a children drawing of a tree, a circle with a stick connecting it to the ground; a tree!

Trees with a clear stem are ideal for small gardens since the you can plant or move under the canopy or head. A bush however takes up a lot of useful space below it ‘head’. The solution is a tree that don’t grow very tall with a clear stem so you can create height and form without taking up much space at ground level.

Some trees will need occasional pruning of the side branches, encouraging upright growth.


Our favourite five trees for small gardens


Amelanchier, sometimes called Serviceberry is an exceptionally hardy shrubby tree from the USA. They have white flowers with a light pink tinge in spring before almost purple leaves appear. These turn to dark green in summer that are spotted with deep red cherry like fruit. The autumn colour is incredible turning red and orange before falling for winter.

Most of them are small trees. They grow to about 4m (13′) up to 6m (19′) after 10 years or so. They can be pruned to shape in winter or straight after flowering.

Choose for Amelanchier Ballerina or Amelanchier Obelisk (pictured), a narrower upright tree even more suitable for small gardens.

Cercidiphyllum japonica

This is a slow growing tree that can be lightly pruned annually for small gardens. It has a light canopy and unusual rounded leaves. It comes into it’s own in autumn wen the pale green leaves turn orange and yellow. Height up to 6m after 10 years. It preferred a more sheltered spot typical of an urban garden.

Cercidphyllum japonica is the upright form.

The variety Cercidiphyllum japonica Pendula (right) is a very graceful tree but broader shape. It would be possible to remove the lower branches to reveal the trunk and create more space.

Sorbus aucuparia

Sorbus aucuparia is also known as Rowan.

Sorbus Autumn Spire

This variety is ideal for town gardens, copes with pollution and is very hardy. As it is an upright growing form it suits small gardens admirably. As the names implies it has great autumn colour and orange berries. They are much loved by birds and help support garden wildlife. It grows to around 4m (13′) tall in ten years.

Sorbus Pink Pagoda

As Sorbus are very hardy they are ideal for the coldest gardens. This variety have bright pink berries in late summer and autumn. Height 4m (13′)+ in ten years. Sorbus like free draining soils.

Malus – the Crab Apple

Crab apples are closely related to fruiting apples. They produce small crab apples which can be used to make crab apple jelly. Some varieties are large but these varieties are smaller and suitable for smaller gardens. Crab apples can be grafted to dwarf root stocks use for fruiting apples which means even smaller trees.  Crab apples can aid pollination of fruiting apples.

Malus Wedding Bouquet

This Malus is covered in ivory white single blossom in spring. It produces a lot of pollen and is a good source of food for early bees. it has light green leaves in spring and summer and deep red long lasting fruit from late summer onward. Hardy and ideal for any garden. Height around 3-4m (9-13′) in ten years and can be pruned in later spring. May even be suitable for large pot if grafted to a dwarfing roots stock. It has the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Prunus – the Flowering Cherry family​

Many of the flowering cherries are too big for small gardens but a few are suitable.

Prunus serrula

Wherever possible we should grow plants in our gardens that have interest in more than one season and Prunus serrula does this. In early spring the bare stems are covered in white There is as saying “The best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago, the second best time is now”. Don’t hesitate and wait. Plant a tree As these fade spring leaves appear.

However all year round the trunk is spectacular with its peeling and ‘polished’ deep copper bark. It’s a smaller tree growing to between 3-4m (10-13′) in 10 years. It’s completely hardy and easy to grow.

Liquidamber styracflua ‘Worplesdon’

The Sweetgum is a great foliage tree. It’s palm shaped leaves are quite glossy & the Liquidambers have amazing autumn colours but unlike some autumn colour trees the leaves start to turn on late summer & stay on the tree right into November.

It’s very hardy & seems to be resistant to pests & diseases.

There is as saying

“The best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago.

The second best time is now”.

Don’t hesitate and wait. Plant a tree now.

See these trees at Ferndale Garden Centre or close varieties if we are without these particular types.

Share this post with your friends

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Keep up to date with our latest news, offers and tips for gardening.