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The best way to Select a Tree for Your Backyard

How to decide on a tree on your backyard shouldn’t be so simple as some individuals would have you ever imagine however neither does it have to be difficult should you’re conscious of the important info. My goal right here is to offer you these info; clarify among the associated horticultural and authorized phrases; and encourage you with potential timber to convey pleasure to your life.
A tall order, however let’s see how we go. There are hyperlinks on the finish for associated Plews blogs each sensible and inspirational.


The best way to Select a Tree for Your Backyard – Edible, Decorative, Deciduous, Evergreen?

Edible timber – fruit, berries, nuts, leaves

Edible timber provides you with spring blossom, generally spectacular, and naturally fruit for you and wildlife.
There are various tree species which carry fruit or berries that people are capable of eat, so suppose past the plain apples and plums.  For instance, Amelanchier lamarckii, the snowy mesphilus.
Nut timber embody hazel, Corylus avellana; candy almond, Prunus dulcis; walnut, Juglans regla and candy chestnut, Castanea sativa

amelanchier lamarckii, Snowy mespilus, autumn leaves

Decorative timber

By which I imply, your principal motive for selecting the tree is for the aesthetic pleasure it should convey you. Certainly one of your issues needs to be for the way lengthy would you like your tree to look beautiful. Will the tree be chosen for –

  • two weeks of stupendous glory, then nothing a lot in any respect for the remainder of the 12 months
  • spring or summer season flowers adopted by vibrant berries for the birds
  • autumn or winter flowering
  • leaf color – in spring and / or in autumn
  • attention-grabbing form of the tree when the branches are naked in winter, corkscrew impact for instance
  • an total attention-grabbing type, equivalent to weeping (which is named pendulous)
  • colored bark for winter curiosity

coppiced birch trees, managed woodland, decorative bark, betula

Naturally some timber will mix two or extra of those options. And for a few of them, the tree could also be evergreen or deciduous.
The size of your garden and how visible the tree will be from your windows are important too. Walk around your neighbourhood in August and remind yourself that those glorious flowering Magnolia in May, are evergreens casting shade over the house the remainder of the year. In a small front garden this does not need to be a problem, but as a central feature in a small back garden its not necessarily a good idea.

How to choose a tree for your garden also includes knowing how often you’ll be sweeping up leaves. Let’s state a couple of obvious facts next, as I’m often amazed at how clients have forgotten them.

Deciduous trees

The definition of a deciduous tree is generally given as referring to a tree (or shrub) which loses its leaves in autumn as they die, and grows new ones each spring. However, some deciduous trees like beech, Fagus sylvatica, keep the dead foliage on until the spring.

Evergreen trees

Most conifers are evergreen, but larch, Larix spp, and Gingko are deciduous. And of course not all evergreen trees are conifers, think of Laurel, Camellia, Yew, Taxus spp. The main difference is that evergreens replace their old leaves continuously, all year round.

pink Camellia bush

How to Choose a Tree for Your Garden – other things to consider

The soil in your garden – that is whether you have clay, chalk or a sandy soil, and how deep the soil, particularly the top soil layer, is.

Dry gardens and high water tables – in other words the availability of water in the soil is crucial when choosing your tree. If your garden is prone to flooding in winter but dry in summer, then it really pays to see what trees are thriving in your area, as these are most likely to thrive in your garden too.

Pollution and salt air – if you live near a busy road or the coast, you will need to source trees that will tolerate these conditions.

Height and spread – how big will a given species grow to? You should consider this in relation not only on your own garden and house, but on your neighbours’ too. Remember to check where power cables and drains run. Plus, if you live near a junction consider whether the tree will impact on visibility for cars pulling out or cause damage to overhead electricity cables.

Maintenance – it is irresponsible to plant a tree, look after it until it has established but then never bother trimming it and keeping it healthy. Trees planted in a garden environment should be maintained along with all the other plants. In later years, this may involve using tree surgeons, so add this into your ongoing care budget.

garden trees, telephone wire, telegraph pole, winter

How to Choose a Tree for Your Garden – bare root, standard and more horticultural terms

Firstly, the way in which the tree is presented for sale –

  • Bare root
  • Root-balled
  • Container grown

Bare root

Usually younger nursery stock, available only when dormant, ie November to March. Just to confuse you, both deciduous and evergreen trees may be sold this way.

bare-root fruit tree, root-ball, tree planting, bare root plants


This means the tree is sold with a covering of soil on their roots and wrapped in hessian for transportation.

Container grown

The most common type most people will see as they’re widely available in garden centres. These are trees which have been grown in the container they’re sold in and are ready for you to plant. They’re generally available year round.

And then how tree stock is categorised. You may see slight variations of these but I’ve tried to cover all possible terms.

  • Seedling
  • Maiden or maiden whip
  • Whip
  • Transplant
  • Feather
  • Half standard (as standard)
  • Standard with leader
  • Standard with branching
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Heavy standard (as standard)
  • Semi-mature

Seedlings are small, as the name suggests, generally less than 1 metre tall,

Maiden or whip refers to a very young tree that has few if any branches, whilst feathers have branches. A transplant is likely to have a reasonable root system. These categories are 1 – 2 metre tall.

Half-standards, standards and heavy standards will all look similar, with a straight stem and a cluster of branches at the top. The difference is mainly in the maturity, as distinguished by the height and girth of the stem (trunk). For example, heavy standards are over 3.5 metres, girth 140mm.

A semi-mature tree is over 4 metres tall and is likely to be more than 10-15 years old.

olive tree, plant nursery, container grown tree

Now, which of these trees might be bare root and which container grown?

  • Seedling, maiden and whip are pretty much certain to be bare root or possibly root-balled.
  • Transplant and feather could be presented as any of the root types, and even half standards can be found as bare root from certain outlets.
  • Standards and heavy standards will be root-balled or container grown.
  • Semi mature are most likely to be root-balled, as they will have been dug up to order.

Points to note

1] sure sluggish rising species will likely be grown in containers even after they’re semi-mature; Olive timber are the plain instance.

2] naked root and root-ball timber are sometimes potted up after which bought on as containerised vegetation. That is effective, however they shouldn’t be bought as container grown (that are dearer). It pays to verify how “cosy” a tree is in its pot should you’re shopping for simply after the naked root season finishes. Free potting compost can be a give away, although sometimes this is due to re-potting instead. You can tell the difference as a re-potted into bigger pot tree will have loose soil around a central non-disturbed root ball (check the roots on the edges). With a recently potted up bare root tree you’ll be able to lift the tree out of the pot with hardly any soil attached to the roots.


Many fruit trees and some specimen trees are sold not with their own roots but with a different rootstock grafted on. Among other things, this affects the ultimate size of the tree. As fruit trees also need to have the correct pollination partner if they are not self fertile these will be the subject of another blog. Suffice to say check out these requirements as well as the general ones (or get in touch with us at Plews!)

tree guard, fruit trees, cherry tree, brick wall, garden wall, walled garden, shadows

How to Choose a Tree for Your Garden – legal stuff

Tree Preservation Order – TPO

A Tree Preservation Order has been made in order to protect a tree which brings a “significant amenity benefit” to an area. It can apply to trees in the garden as well as to street trees, trees in parks and woodlands; to individual trees or to a group of trees.

However, if you live in a Conservation Area or Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) then the trees in the garden are given automatic protection. There are various other areas and situations where trees may be covered by area (“blanket TPO”) or individual TPOs, for example, listed gardens and National Parks. But it’s a large topic and too much to discuss within this article, especially as its not relevant to most of you.

Yes, you may say, but I’m planting a tree not cutting one down. True, but as that tree grows it will become included within the generic TPO. You may also, and certainly in the situation of an SSSI, be limited as to which tree species you may plant. The rules relating to fruit trees are slightly different and hedges are not usually covered by TPOs.


And finally…

This how to choose a tree for your garden blog is intended as a starting point for you in your decision making. If you feel its too much to take on, Plews offers an advisory service to help with all the ‘boring bits’ leaving you with a shortlist of suitable trees, including appropriate species for  your particular garden, so you can do the fun bits. Trees are a long term investment and you’ll want to get it right, drop us an email and we can start a conversation about your needs and issues.

We can also advice on how to plant the tree you’ve chosen, for example whether it would require expert help. And also how to prepare the area for planting. These are topics I have covered briefly in other blogs, but as each garden is different it is too much detail to go into here.

However, there are other tips and tricks, some of which can be found in other Plews Potting Shed blogs, including the selection below, our monthly Tipsheet and regularly on  Instagram and Facebook


Related Gardening articles you may enjoy from our Award Winning Blog

A selection of blogs with more practical and inspirational help on how to choose a tree for your garden, roughly arranged into categories for you. But firstly for the sheer delight of trees –

Celebrating Trees

The which blog has a selection of links for tree choosing inspiration and practical tips, but here are some to get you started –

Ornamental Deciduous Trees for Small Gardens
How to have a Mini Orchard in Your Garden
Bare Root Fruit Trees
How to create a Woodland Edge Habitat in Your Garden
Clay Soil Gardening
Chalk Soil Gardening


snowy garden, shrubs, trees



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