The vertical structure of a tree adds a new dimension to any garden setting, by drawing the eye upwards and away from the majority of ground-level plants, which is particularly useful in a small garden.


The very presence of a tree is a great draw for all manner of wildlife; pollinating insects will flock towards the flowers, birds will polish off berries and nest among the branches and copious insects will make their homes in the crevices of the bark.

The best trees for small gardens

Malus ‘Butterball’

A crab apple tree makes a great addition to a small garden
Credit: Pomona Fruit

No garden should be without a crab apple tree because they bestow interest throughout the seasons. Highlights for M. ‘Butterball’ include its white, flushed pink blossom in spring and glorious yellow fruits in late summer and autumn. The fruits make delicious crab apple jelly.

Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia Splendens’

Crataegus persimilis 'Prunifolia Splendens'

This handsome cultivar of our native hawthorn rightfully earned an RHS Award of Garden Merit for providing magnificent spring blossom, colourful autumnal foliage and multitude of scarlet berries. This plant will also entice a wide spectrum of wildlife into any garden.

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Cercis siliquastrum

Cercis siliquastrum

For a tree that will bring colour to your garden each season, try Cercis siliquastrum. Its abundant display of rosy-pink flowers will cover the stems and branches come springtime. Heart-shaped, green leaves follow its spectacular blossom display and later turn a lustrous shade of yellow in autumn.

Acer palmatum ‘Azuma-murasaki’

2 Acer palmatum 'Azuma-murasaki'

The slow-growing nature of Japanese maples makes them ideal candidates to cultivate in a compact space. Place in a warm, sheltered spot; exposure to cold winds or prolonged spells of hot sun will scorch their foliage.

Ligustrum lucidum ‘Chinese Privet’

Chinese privet

Standard evergreen, lollipop trees such as holly, bay, Photinia, Viburnum tinus or the variegated Chinese privet (as shown here) make ideal specimens for screening, especially if they are lined up against a wall or fence with their round heads standing proud.

Prunus serrulata ‘Snow Goose’

Snow Goose Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus serrulata Snow Goose) Credit: Getty Images
Snow Goose Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus serrulata Snow Goose) Credit: Getty Images

A froth of snowy blossom adorns the branches of this narrow, ornamental, flowering cherry in spring. It will slowly grow to around 4 metres in height after 20 years, making it ideal for gardens with limited space.


Louise Midgley is a gardener and garden writer