Deciding what small tree to squeeze into a modern pint-pot garden can be a real problem. A look at a tree nursery list will have you salivating but if space is challenged, stop right there. Drool away by all means but do not buy anything on impulse.
Never ever buy a tree without paying close attention to the final size that your specimen will reach. Many are parkland trees.
My next door neighbours have a garden 40 metres long and in to it are packed the following: two eucalyptus, one Norway sycamore and a liquidambar. All will make over 20 metres in height. Expensive work for the tree surgeon will ensue and the house itself might suffer from roots questing for water and stability. So what should you grow?
An elegant solution is the common willow Salix viminalis. With an annual haircut you can keep it to the size you want. Willows put on good growth in one season and new stems are rich and vivid in colour. Give the plant an annual short back and sides and you will have the perfect mini-tree that will not outgrow allotted space.
An excellent way to treat your willow is to establish three main stems and to cut them back to about a metre and a half. This gives the extra height. The beauty of three stems is that you can rotate your hard hairdo – two one year and the third the following. That way you will always have a framework of branches to look at.
There is a large selection of willows to choose from – go with the branch colours you like best. There are oranges, blacks, yellow. Their silvery leaves are pretty good too and look graceful all summer long.
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Catharine Howard is a designer, garden coach, the gardening editor of Essential Suffolk Magazine, and garden writer. Topics are anything to do with horticulture and the inspiration behind design. She lives and gardens in Suffolk. Catharine also contributes to ThinkinGardens, Guardian garden blog and IntoGardens.