Choosing a Specimen Tree

A resting place among the plants

You can have a pleasant resting spot beneath a shady tree even if space in your garden is limited. Many attractive trees are suitable for the smaller garden.

single specimen tree planted in a well-chosen spot makes a wonderful focal point for the garden. During summer days, it also provides a natural shelter from the heat of the sun.

specimen tree Some popular trees, such as beech, oak, lime and chest­nut, are less suited to the smaller garden because of their size. However, there are many other trees to choose from.

A centrepiece in the garden

The specimen tree should be the centre of attention in a garden. Choose a light and open space which gives easy access to the house. Remember that as the tree grows larger, it might cast shade on areas you want to remain sunny.

Also, remember that the tree must not be too close to neighbours’ gar­dens. Ensure there is suffi­cient space around the specimen tree for it to grow freely for many years with­out pruning. This allows it to develop a well-shaped, natural crown.

Fruit trees used as specimens are an exception to the rule about pruning. They must be pruned if they are to yield a good harvest. Your efforts will be rewarded with a crop of apples, pears or cherries straight from the tree.

A spot to sit

The idea of a specimen tree is that it should not only be a dominant feature of the garden, but should also provide an ideal place to sit beneath its shady crown. A bench is therefore essential, and you may want to place a table and chairs beneath it as well. It is best to invest in garden furniture of the kind that can be left out in all weath­ers. This will save you the trouble of taking it all indoors whenever it looks like rain.



Plant a tree with a tall stem (at least 180cm). In winter, lop off unwanted branches to encourage growth and develop a sitting area under the tree more quickly. Do not forget to water regularly in the first two years.

A tall trunk

To enable people to move about under the crown of the tree, the trunk should be at least 1.8m high before the branches start to spread. This gives an airy sitting area, protected from the summer sun, while birds and other animals will be able to find a home in the crown.

The best location for a specimen tree is an open space in the garden. How­ever, if you choose a shal­low-rooted tree and plant it in a lawn, the roots may harm the grass by depriving it of nutrients and moisture. Shade will also tend to harm a lawn, creating difficult conditions for grass to grow and favouring the develop­ment of moss and other lawn weeds.

To prevent this, you could replace the lawn under the tree, where the garden furniture will go, with a covering of duck boards, stone flags or paving stones. If you do this, leave as large a space as possible between the planks or stones, so water can reach the tree roots.

Remember too that there will be exceptional wear and tear on the area under the tree. To alleviate this, mix sand with a clay soil to make it lighter and more easily drained.

Which tree?

The graceful weeping willow looks best in a larger garden where its eventual 10m spread will not be out of proportion When choosing a specimen tree, personal taste is not the only consideration. Ask these crucial ques­tions:

• What is the soil like in the garden?

• How high is the ground water?

• Will the branches start reaching into the neighbours’ garden in a few years’ time?

• Do you want herba­ceous plants under the tree?

If you are at all uncer­tain, you should always choose a tree with a small. light crown.

Choose native varieties

Native frees are usually able to survive both cold winters and dry summers. They are also likely to resist disease, and species such as maple, pear and hawthorn all tolerate exposed sites.

Make your choice on the basis of the features of the tree: flowering, fruit, foliage and shape of the branches. All the low-grow­ing maples are very suit­able for small gardens. Their abundant foliage lasts long into autumn, before the flaming leaves finally fall to the ground.

Apples and pears flower in May and bear fruit in autumn. The thorny hawthorns grow a mass of scented flowers.


Once the specimen tree has been planted and is well rooted, it requires little extra care — apart from the raking of leaves in the autumn. Fruit trees will, of course, require regular pruning if they are to con­tinue giving good crops, and you will have to pick the fruit. Apart from this, you only need to remove dead or unwanted branches and to watch for pests.

The tree will require watering during dry peri­ods and it should also be fed. In other words, the specimen tree should be tended in the same way as all the other trees and shrubs in the garden.


Trees bought bare-rooted, without a soil ball or container, will certainly need pruning. Prune both roots and branches down to half their original length. Plant straight away trees with a soil ball or those that are container grown. Always remove the plastic or fabric sheeting or container before planting and follow the correct proce­dure carefully. Secure the tree to an adequately sized stake, to ensure that the roots are not loosened.

The soil should be improved with some slow-acting organic fertilizer. During the first two years, the tree needs regular watering so that it can develop quickly into a strong and healthy tree.

Do not forget that it will be at least four or five years before you can sit clown in the pleasant shade cast by your specimen tree.

Step by Step Guide to Planting a Specimen Tree

1. Dig a planting hole large enough for the rootball and trim the roots by about half.

2. The branches should be trimmed too, unless the tree is pot-grown or has a soil ball attached.

3. Put the tree in the hole with a little soil and shake hard to settle the soil into all the crevices.

4. Fill the planting hole with soil enriched with a mixture of bone meal or other organic fertilizer.

steps 4, 5 and 6 step by step guide to planting a specimen tree

5. Press the soil down with your foot while holding the tree so that it remains completely upright.

6. Make a trench around the stem and water heavily.


Buying Tips

Apart from fruit trees, the following are also good choices for speci­men trees:

one of the many maple varieties, perhaps Acer cissifolium (up to 7m tall) or Japanese maple, tulip tree (7m), horn­beam (10m), hawthorn, crab apple, bird cherry, rowan or willow.

22. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Trees | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Choosing a Specimen Tree


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