Sunday, 25 November 2012



When I started my first garden as a very keen fifteen year old apprentice gardener with a heap of enthusiasm, but no experience I was determined that my wee council house garden in St. Marys would stand up proud if it had a few trees. There was precious little space, but I managed a laburnum, an upright cherry, Prunus Amanogawa and a weeping birch Betula pendula youngii. There was a lot of really excellent gardeners in the Dundee Parks dept where I worked so advice was given that if I wanted a really impressive weeping birch I would have to stop it weeping and force it to grow tall first before it started serious weeping. The main stem was tied to a stake then as it grew it was tied to another long cane on top of my stake. Eventually it reached about fifteen feet then I let it weep. I got a fantastic specimen. Moving on to bigger gardens my love of trees stayed with me and over time I planted numerous trees in gardens all over UK.
I now have a decent sized garden so I have indulged in many of my favourites, though I am not yet on the scale where I can have my fruiting walnut, a weeping silver lime, an Atlas cedar or a mulberry, and I would also love a big copse of white stemmed birch trees. Maybe one day!!!
Trees add scale to a garden, encourage birds and other wildlife, can screen eyesores and create impressive specimens in lawns and borders. Trees can be selected for any size of garden and may be ornamental, flowering and fruiting.

Ornamental trees
Only plant oak, beech, lime, Scots pine, spruce and cedar if you have a huge garden with space to let them grow, but for normal gardens there is always smaller growing trees. Rowan is a favourite in Scotland and berries come in white, orange and yellow as well as red. Birch is another common species and I prefer Betula jaquemontii for its brilliant white trunk and B. Youngii as a great weeping form. The dwarf weeping elm tree, Ulmus camperdownii, is well worth planting as it is very attractive as well as being our local elm. Upright forms of many trees exist, that do not take up too much space such as hornbeam, oaks and cherry. For larger trees try a Eucalyptus, whitebeam, hawthorn or Japanese or other maple. Maples have dazzling autumn colour, come in all sizes and many have ornamental bark. The golden leaved Robinia frisia grows well in Dundee as long as the ground is well drained, and it can make a stunning specimen.
Leyland cypress should be avoided as although it is cheap, easy to grow and fast, it soon becomes a nuisance and at the end of the day it is not all that attractive.

Flowering trees
Cherries, crab apples, Magnolias, Eucryphia, Lilac and Amelanchier are all perfect for smaller gardens. Prunus Amanogawa is upright and quite narrow. Prunus Shirotae is spreading, but an absolute stunner in flower. Crab apples flower then have a crop of very bright small apples, e.g. John Downie. Some Magnolias are more large shrubs, but can attain a fair height when mature.
Eucryphia Rostrevor is slow growing but will make a tall white flowering tree in time.
Amelanchier is brilliant in flower, has terrific autumn colour and if you get the fruiting form, known as the Saskatoon, the birds will get a healthy feed in summer.

Fruiting trees
If you prefer to have a fruiting tree then the choice can include apples, pears, plums, peaches, and cherries, and if you have the room and patience try a mulberry. Modern dwarfing rootstocks now allow us to have apples, peaches and cherries that will happily fit into the small garden often trained against a south facing wall. Choose varieties that have healthy foliage as there are very few fungicides available to tackle scab, mildew or brown rot. I can recommend apple Discovery, Katy, Red Devil, Fiesta and Bramley for a good cooker. Victoria is still my favourite plum, Peregrine a good peach, and Beurre Hardy my best pear, but newer varieties are appearing all the time and it is good to try something different.

Plant of the week

Jasminum nudiflorum is at its best in late autumn to early winter, but will continue to flower every time we get a few mild days. Its bright yellow flowers are very welcome at this time of year. It is treated as a wall climber, but needs a support and tying in. It can be planted on a north wall, or any other aspect, but flowers best in full sun. It is not fussy about soil as long as the drainage is good and is very easy to propagate as long shoots arch over onto the ground and quickly take root by layering.

Painting of the month

“Picture of Fruit” is an acrylic painting of summer fruits, completed as part of a project of about thirty paintings using fruits as still life subjects. I included peppers, Cape gooseberries, mushrooms, bananas, grapes, apples and pears, and set up spot lights to create a dramatic effect.
Some of these can be seen in the West End Gallery in the Perth Road Dundee.


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