Man planting a tree in the ground.

How to Choose a Tree for Your Garden

Every tree brings a range of benefits to the garden. In addition to flowers and fruit, some offer sculptural shapes, colored bark, vibrant autumn color, and differing degrees of shade, or a combination of these qualities. The choice is wide, so decide what you want most from a tree before you buy one.

Assess your needs

Trees are an investment in time, money, and space, so it is important to pick one that suits your garden. Soil type and aspect are important considerations, but so too is the amount of space you have available, bearing in mind how large the tree will grow. Also remember that trees cast shade, and draw large quantities of moisture and nutrients from the soil, affecting other plants growing nearby.

They can also undermine foundations with their roots, so be careful to site your tree at a distance from buildings. You should also prioritize the qualities you want from your tree, whether it’s esthetic beauty, structure, privacy, or wildlife habitat.

Seasonal interest

Some trees have several seasons of interest, and offer great garden value. Prunus serrula has spring blossoms and copper bark for winter appeal. Both Malus x moerlandsii ‘Liset’ and Sorbus vilmorinii have spring flowers and autumn fruits; the Sorbus also has attractive foliage. With spring flowers, summer berries, and rich autumnal tints, Amelanchier lamarkii has a lot to offer and is ideal for smaller plots.

Design effects

Trees play a number of useful and decorative roles in the garden. Where there is space and a clear line of sight, consider a tree with a strong structure, such as a birch or decorative cherry, to act as a stand-alone focal point.

A tree with a good canopy, such as the Indian bean tree, Catalpa bignonioides, provides shade from hot summer sun when planted close to a south-facing seating area. Large-leaved trees can also help create a tropical effect in the garden. Try the fragrant snowbell, Styrax obassia, with its scented white flowers, or the evergreen loquat, Eriobotrya japonica, an ideal choice for year-round privacy.