Height and spread
Before you commit to buying your tree, the most important thing to research is its size.
Even small trees can reach average heights of 4.6-7.6m and can have an almost equal spread. If this is a factor, then a large shrub like a Lilac or Viburnum may be a more practical choice while a weeping variety can be a consideration if there is plenty of room to spread, but you prefer to restrict the height.
Trees which are columnar in form are perfect where space is at a premium. Columnar trees for small gardens come in a variety of forms depending on whether you prefer fruit, blossom or foliage and it is always best to get advice from specialist nurseries.
Flowering examples include Prunus Amanogawa, Japanese Cherry, which is fabled for its lovely pink blossom and narrow shape and the equally lovely Magnolia Stellata.
The easy to maintain Italian Cypress is perfect for making a bold statement but beware as this can grow quite tall. Some of the Common Junipers have striking blue/green foliage and with their upright, columnar shape are generally slow growing.
Best small trees for foliage
The Japanese Maple Acer Palmatum is very difficult to beat if you want a delicate small tree. With spectacular reds and golds and finely cut leaves, this will add grace and beauty to any garden.
Be sure to plant in a fairly sheltered spot and out of direct sunlight as it doesn’t like strong winds and sun at the hottest part of the day.
The Photinia Red Robin, which has glossy green leaves, is usually sold as a shrub but with careful pruning, you can keep it producing new shoots of red as it grows to its maximum height of around 4.6m.