How to grow ornamental trees

Add all-year interest, a focal point and height to your garden by choosing and planting an ornamental tree. They can give structure, shape, shade and attract wildlife and birds, while changing with the seasons.

You can pick a tree with lovely foliage, flowers and fruits and interesting bark, so there’s something to show off all year and compliment your flowers and plants.

Ornamental trees suit both large and small gardens.

Varieties of ornamental trees

Cornus mas produces fruits and flowers of different colours through the seasons, while magnolia flowers with beautiful buds in spring and summer and plum blossom delivers a vibrant spring showering.

Ornamental trees with a big impact in summer include laburnum, with its golden yellow flowers, and the white star-shaped petals of cornus contoversa.

Eucalyptus, conifer and euonymus europaeus are just some popular garden trees that are stunning all year, but with particular appeal in autumn and winter in the UK.

Where to position ornamental trees

If possible, plant a tree in a site that enjoys full sun or at least semi-shade. Different tree species have different requirements, though generally all trees enjoy a degree of sunlight during the day.

The height of the fully-grown tree, and the spread of the branches, is one of the most important things to consider and know about before planting. Make sure your garden and planting spot is big enough.

Preparing the soil for planting

If the soil is heavy where the tree will be planted, dig out the sub soil (under the top soil) from a wide hole and turn it over with a fork or spade.

Add bulky compost or manure to the planting hole to give the tree roots the best start after it goes in the ground.

Growing tomato plants from plants

Tomato plants, either cordon or bush, are grown in the same way to seeds, except they have a much shorter growing period. Young tomato plants are sent to you in May or June, ready to be planted into larger containers or direct into the soil if there’s no risk of a frost.

  • Young tomato plants received in the post may have bent stems. This is natural and stems will straighten after exposure to daylight.
  • Tomato bush plants can also be grown in a long vegetable trough. A plant such as Montello is a spreading variety and one plant can cover a trough with flourishing tomatoes. Water well but do not overwater.
  • Some heavy, bushy plants may need a little support by tying them loosely to canes, to stop them bending over too much.

How to plant ornamental trees

  • Dig a hole about 6inches (15cm) wider than the spread-out root system of the plant.
  • The hole must be deep enough so that the soil mark on the stem of the tree will be just covered when it’s planted.
  • The knobbly part of the tree stem, where the upper part of the tree is joined to the lower understock part, is called the union. The union should be approximately 6inches (15cm) above soil level when planted.
  • Place the tree in the hole and spread out the roots.
  • Add layers of soil to the hole, firming each layer with your foot or a piece of wood, until the hole’s full.
  • The final layer should not be firmed, as it could shed water away from the tree.
  • If a wooden support stake is used and the plant tied to it, it should be securely placed into the hole before the tree is planted.

How to water ornamental trees

  • When planting the tree, insert a rain water pipe with holes marked in the side, reaching from the root base to just above the soil.
  • Water down this pipe to get water to where it’s needed. It will prevent surface rooting and help the tree to search deep for moisture and nutrients.
  • Always water in the evening if possible, as there will be less evaporation.
  • During the first year, the tree should be kept well-watered during hot and dry spells.

Caring for ornamental trees

If possible, for four years after planting, a strip 4ft (1.2m) wide around the trunk should be kept clear of plants and grass. Adding a layer of mulch, like manure and compost, to the soil will help this and retain moisture too.

  • Don’t let mulch come into contact with the plant.
  • Water the tree with a liquid fertiliser.

How to prune ornamental trees

How to prune depends on the tree species, but a good rule of thumb is to prune after the tree has flowered.

Cut out dead, damaged or diseased branches, or branches that spoil the overall shape of the tree.

When you remove branches, try not to prune branches so that they are flush with the branch it grows from.