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Turning concrete jungles into woodland forests
With the demand for housing in some countries at an all-time high and with more and more suburbs being built the images we often see of urban landscapes is a row of houses each with a strip of lawn and a few flowerpots. But with a little research and some clever plant selection and positioning, you would be surprised at how many trees and shrubs can be grown even in small spaces and gardens.
The most important determining factoring when tree planting in small backyards is finding out the ultimate height of the tree and how many years it takes to reach that height. Some trees will grow slowly and fit a small space well for many years, but over time and without correct pruning can grown to block out light and even damage the foundations of your house.
There are plenty of small trees to choose from when tree planting in your small outdoor space – here are some of the favourites with planting tips and advice on their on-going care.
Japanese maples are small trees that grow slowly – making them ideal as trees to plant in small backyards. Their foliage is stunning in autumn, and they are one of those trees that just ‘grows old gracefully’. Japanese maples do best in sheltered spots, preferably in areas where there is morning sun or semi-shade and will thrive in rich soil that drains well – avoid heavy clay-like soil.
Your maple will need to be watered heavily twice a week during normal weather and three or even four times a week when it is drier weather – but they are worth the extra care and attention as they are the ideal small-space trees to plant and cultivate.
Crab Apple Trees
Fancy some crab-apple jelly? Crab apples are nice compact little trees to plant in small gardens with their upright branches and round shapes, producing pretty, white spring blossoms and dark red crab apples during the winter – a haven for bees and birds when all your neighbour has to offer is artificial grass.
Choose a location in your backyard in full sun with well-drained soil – keep in mind that crab apple trees that are planted in the shade grow an open canopy instead of a more attractive, dense one and will produce fewer flowers and fruit. These little trees are drought-resistant once established but will need regular watering in the first few years.
Cercis Canadensis or Forest Pansy
If you are after some colour then you can’t go wrong with the Forest Pansy. These beautiful multi-stemmed small trees are renowned for their deep reddish-purple, heart-shaped leaves and small pink flowers. They will grow well in sun or partial shade but need to be protected from strong winds – generally not a problem in most small back yards.
Your Forest Pansy will be low-maintenance once established but does not like wet soil – make sure when planting this tree the soil is fertile and drains well. Oh, and they like a little soft crooning beneath their branches once in a while ….
When most people hear the word ‘Magnolia’ they imagine big trees and heaps of shade, but these versatile trees can be trained to live very happily even in a small garden. They are so easy to care for, being drought and disease-resistant and like a fine wine just get better with age, producing those gorgeous flowers for up to three months from early spring.
Magnolia can tolerate just about any kind of soil, even when your back garden gets wet and soggy during winter, but do best in moist, rich and slightly acidic soil.
Every garden needs focal points and it just so happens that one of the favourites of arborists the world over is also ideally suited to even tiny back yards – the cycad. These trees have been around for a very long time and have mastered the art of looking good in full sun, semi-shade or in a pot on our deck – producing either a single-trunk or becoming multi-stemmed. There is just something about these trees with their woody trucks and large evergreen leaves that makes them a must-have in the urban sprawl.
Cycads prefer well-drained soil and a sunny position – whatever you do keep your cycad away from a full shade area. These trees do particularly well in large pots – meaning you can take your cycad with you if you move.
Amelanchier x grandiflora Ballerina
For the bird-lovers the Amelanchier x grandiflora Ballerina – a small tree with a big attitude. Its foliage turns a pretty bronze colour in spring before turning dark green in summer with white flowers that produce small red berries which are popular with birds.
The notable thing about these hardy ornamental trees is that they are tolerant of pollution – perfect for small gardens backing onto busy roads. They also grow well in damp spots where other trees might struggle.
If you have a pocket-sized garden and you are focusing on planning native trees then you can’t go wrong with these cool smaller trees that grow up to four metres in height:
- Pseudowintera colorata or Mountain Horopito – a lovely small shrub-like tree with attractive leaves that can also be used in cooking.
- Dodonaea Ake Aka – this slow growing New Zealand native shrub or small tree has an eye-catching trunk and bark and is an ideal addition to small suburban gardens.
- Kawakawa – this popular native shrub enjoys low light and moist to damp environments, making it ideal for small, enclosed garden spaces. The Kawakawa has been used traditionally to treat cuts, wounds, stomach and rheumatic pain, skin disorders and toothache.
- Olearia species or Tree Daisy – these hardy, attractive little trees produce many small pretty flowers and are loved by bees, the perfect addition to your small garden if you are after some colour.
Tree planting can be incredibly rewarding – the fruits of your labour will be enjoyed for generations to come and having a small garden should not be a barrier to creating something amazing. If you would like to take the guess work out of creating a truly spectacular back yard you can always ask an expert like a trained arborist to help. You might even have a small garden with a few trees in need of some maintenance – getting specialist help will generally be better for the health of your trees.
Urban trees are a huge asset and even the smallest back yard will have a space to plant a tree or two with the right planning.
How do you determine which trees are appropriate for small backyards?
When choosing trees for small backyards, consider their size, growth rate, root systems, and the amount of sunlight and moisture in the area.
What are the benefits of planting trees in small urban gardens?
The benefits of planting trees in small urban gardens include providing shade, improving air quality, reducing noise pollution, and attracting wildlife.