For a small garden, trees have to be chosen with great care if they are not to cause problems by overshadowing or eventually growing out of scale with the plot. We all want to create an immediate effect and too often we select something which is inappropriate.
Dwarf conifers provide a foliage effect which extends throughout the year, but real dwarfs take several seasons to reach any size. If they look good at planting they soon outgrow their station.
A group of small deciduous trees which usually remains in scale and suits our wet climate belong to the genus Sorbus. It contains two principal groups: the Whitebeams with simple leaves and the Mountain Ashes with pinnate leaves. Most are of modest size, never look scruffy, their neat appearance suiting the tidy gardener, bearing white flowers in spring and berries of varying colours and leaf colouring in the autumn. They are not greedy and don’t cast a dense shade – allowing suitable planting beneath or equally suitable as a specimen on a lawn.
The Mountain Ash group includes several which are suitable, the tiny leaflets creating a lightness of texture and next to no problem at leaf drop. This is a considerable advantage, especially in a wet autumn when large leaves falling and lodging on lawns and low growing plants are problematic.
My favourite is Sorbus vilmorinii, its numerous (up to 14) pairs of leaflets, dark green and closely set, give a fern like effect. Small white flowers are followed by berries: green at first followed by red, through pink to pinkish white. These continue to hang on the bare branches after the leaves have dropped, which turn a vinous red in a good year.
Similar effect is produced by Sorbus prattii, whose fruits are pearly white and the autumn foliage a purple bronze. The bare branches are particularly attractive being rusty, hairy and with pointed buds.
Of upright habit is Sorbus commixta with elegant foliage, bronzy when young. Large clusters of orange red fruits are produced. Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’ may grow a little larger, has very good autumn colours with creamy amber fruits. A great pleasure to me is looking down from the bathroom window whilst shaving in the morning and watching a blackbird feeding on these berries.
Sorbus hupehensis has long, drooping leaves that open copper coloured but become a silver shade. The fruits persist for a long time and are ignored by birds even in hard winters. Hanging in clusters on rhubarb red stalks, they are porcelain white with pink tips.
These smaller varieties, together with larger ones, are worth their place in large gardens also. Most of the simple leaved group are perhaps too large for the smallest gardens but one species, Sorbus folgneri, especially the selection ‘Lemon Drop’ is a delightful choice. The spreading or pendulous branches are covered with a dense white fleece, at first becoming smooth and purplish brown as the wood matures. The autumn colouring is spectacular, orange and scarlet with a dazzling silver underneath and bunches of yellow berries to follow.
Be assured none will disappoint.
Our members have some truly beautiful and interesting gardens. Take a look to see some of the wonderful things growing.
You can take out CGS membership as an individual or as a family and there are lots of benefits.
Visiting Gardens of Yorkshire
Taking in RHS Harlow Carr, Newby Hall, Castle Howard, RHS Scampston Walled Gardens, Helmsley Walled Gardens and the delightfully-named Breezy Knees Garden & Nursery, this will be your chance to experience Yorkshire at its summery best.
Visits to National Trust Packwood House on the way up and National Trust Baddesley Clinton House on the way home will punctuate our journeys and provide further interest.
The booking form and full itinerary was included in our December 2016 mailing.
West Haye Farm, Haye, Callington PL17 7JW, Anvil Cottage and Windmills Garden, South Hill, Callington PL17 7LP
In 1994, Paul Haye levelled an unkempt field at West Haye Farm with just a pick and shovel; his only mechanical assistance being a digger to create two ponds. Since 2002, Paul and his wife have developed their horticultural haven, adding new plants, a shrubbery and a kitchen garden.
Geoff and Barbara Clemerson designed their garden at Anvil Cottage to attract many species of bird with shrubs and trees providing cover and nesting sites. Steps from a rather formal front garden lead up to an area with panoramic views across the southern end of Bodmin Moor and into a rose garden, beyond which is a small wild space that includes a hot bed and jungle garden.
Windmills Garden, owned by Peter and Sue Tunnicliffe, nestles next to St. Sampson’s, a medieval church, on the site of an old rectory. It is a garden full of surprises with formal paths and steps to flower beds, vegetables and soft fruit areas, a water feature with rustic stone bridge and a pergola.
The booking form will be included in our March 2017 mailing.