We are all eager to do our bit for the environment, and planting a tree is a small step which can really make a difference. There are plenty of reasons to plant a tree: they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they are a haven for wildlife, they help improve soil erosion, and reduce flooding.
The number of trees lost across Scotland in storms over the last few years was on a devastating scale, so now is a very good time to think about planting a tree, whatever the size.
With this in mind I have put together a list of my 7 top tree choices, suitable for our Scottish climate, and covering various situations, so hopefully there is something for everyone, whatever your size of garden, allotment, or balcony.
Tree For A Small Garden
Almost all gardens can fit in a tree of some kind. If you are tight for space and limited to just one, then the Crabapple Malus ‘Evereste’ would be my recommendation. It is compact in size and requires very little maintenance. It will reward you with pretty white blossom in spring, fruit in autumn, and a fabulous leaf display so it really earns its place in a small garden.
Tree For A Pot
Pots are a great way of growing a tree if you are renting or only have a small outdoor space or balcony. Acer palmatum is ideal for a pot, and I would recommend ‘Skeeter’s Broom’ which only grows to about 2 metres tall. It has a beautiful structure and a fantastic leaf display, emerging with bright reds in spring which mature to rich plum tones in autumn. Acers prefer an acidic soil so pot it up with ericaceous compost.
Tree For Winter Interest
My favourite tree for winter has to be a holly tree. Not only does it have all the traditional associations with Christmas, but it is such a useful tree to bring structure into the garden over the colder months, with its rich glossy leaves and bright red berries which are great for wildlife. My preference is Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Maid’ grown as a standard, either in a row of three or five, or plant one either side of your front door for a warm welcome into your home.
Tree For An Exposed Site
An exposed, windy aspect is a common feature of many Scottish gardens. One of the hardiest trees which will stand up to the harshest of winds is the Rowan. Sorbus commixta ‘Embley’ is a good choice, it is a medium sized tree and has a spectacular autumn display, with the berries holding on into early winter.
Tree For A North Facing Garden
A north facing garden has less sunshine through the day, so I would recommend a tree with a lighter colour leaf to brighten the area. My top pick is the whitebeam Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’. It is a medium sized tree which has beautiful silvery green, textured leaves that draw the eye and light up the space. Combining it with other plants with silver leaves such as Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ or Athyrium ‘Silver Falls’ will create a cohesive planting scheme.
Tree For A Damp Site
We are no stranger to high rainfall in Scotland, and many gardens have a damp patch or two. Whilst you can put in drainage, if it is just a small area then an easier, and more environmentally friendly solution, is to plant a tree which will tolerate damper ground. A good option is the hawthorn Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ which is extremely hardy and tolerant of wind, wet, and cold! It produces beautiful pink double flowers in summer followed by haws in autumn, making it a great choice for an ornamental tree.
Tree for Architectural Structure
Whilst any tree adds sculptural interest to a garden, a multi-stemmed variety adds an additional architectural quality, making it a real feature. A multi-stemmed Amelanchier lamarckii would be my recommendation – a great option for Scotland as many other popular multi-stemmed choices are not so hardy. It has a pretty show of star-shaped flowers in spring and copper pink leaves which turn to a yellow green followed by a rich scarlet in autumn. And then in the winter, you are left with its beautifully elegant, skeletal form.
Katie runs Katie Reynolds Design which offers garden and interior design services across Aberdeenshire and the North East of Scotland. She is qualified in both sectors, having trained at KLC School of Design in London and the National Design Academy. Follow Katie for more inspiration on Instagram and Facebook.