How to grow Ornamental Trees

Introduction to Ornamental Trees

If you want to add height to your garden and increase the vertical interest consider planting a tree in your garden. There are trees particularly suited for gardens which don’t grow out of proportion to your property or develop too thick a canopy that blocks out sunlight.

Garden trees make great focal points and with good selection you can pick a tree with lovely foliage, flowers and fruits and interesting bark- so there’s something to show all year round.

Planting trees

Dig a hole some 6in wider than the spread out root system and to a depth whereby the soil mark from the nursery on the stem of the young tree will be just covered.

N.B. If your garden soil is on the heavy side, you will get better establishment by cultivating the sub-soil in the area where the young tree is to be planted. Take out a wider hole than normal (about 3ft in diameter) and loosen the subsoil with a fork before planting the tree.

Make sure the union where the variety is grafted onto the rootstock is 5-6in above soil level when you have finished planting.

If a tree stake is to be used, it should be banged in before the tree is planted.

After placing the tree in the hole, spread out the roots and add layers of soil, firming down with your foot or an old log. The final layer should not be firmed however, as it could shed water away from the tree.

TOP TIP! There are many purpose-made ties on the market, but a pair of ladies tights is also ideal. Tie them around the tree and the stake in a figure of eight, thus forming a buffer. Don't forget to check the tie once a year in case it is girdling the tree.


Caring for trees

During the first year your trees should be kept well watered during hot and dry spells. Ideally, a square or strip 4ft wide around the trunk should be kept clear of any plants (especially grass) for 4 years by cultivation, by applying a mulch.

Straw or well-rotted manure mulches are a very good idea to help retain moisture. The soil should be warm and moist when the mulch is applied, preferably before the end of May. The mulch should not touch the tree stem as this can lead to disease and, in the case of straw, harbour mice which might eat the tree bark.


Watering trees

When planting the tree, insert a piece of rain water pipe with holes drilled in the side, reaching from the base of the roots to just above the soil level. Water down this pipe to get the water just where it is needed. It will prevent surface rooting and will help the tree to search deep down for moisture and nutrient. Always water in the evening if at all possible as there will be less evaporation.


Feeding trees

Add bulky compost or manure to the planting hole to get the plant roots off to a good start. Tree roots are general very self-sufficient and good at finding and searching nutrients in the soil. Additional feeding is generally not needed – however if your tree is containerised, it will need additional food. Water with a liquid fertiliser.


Siting 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.


Pruning trees

Again, this 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 flush with the branch it grows from. You will generally see a knobbly join between the branches, and it’s just above this knobbly part that you want to remove the branch.


Best varieties of garden trees


Cornus mas


Plum blossom



Cornus contoversa

Davidia involucrata


Euonymus europaeus

Viburnum opulus

Amelanchier lemarckii




Acer griseum


Pests and diseases of trees

These depend on the tree species, but common culprits include;

Codling moth

Processionary moth

Honey fungus