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.
This five-day garden tour takes in the finest gardens of Kent and Sussex, and showcases late summer planting. One of the many highlights is an exclusive visit to Perch Hill where we will enjoy a talk by Sarah Raven, a guided tour of her gardens and lunch.
Other highlights include a guided tour of Christopher Lloyd’s and Fergus Garrett’s Great Dixter, and a visit to Vita Sackville- West’s Sissinghurst. This holiday will also include entry to the magnificent RHS Partner Gardens of Great Comp and Merriments, the award-winning Pashley Manor and West Dean Gardens.
Dinner, bed and breakfast will be provided at the Mercure Hotel at Tunbridge Wells and we will benefit from the services of a Brightwater Tour Manager.
If you would like to join us on this garden holiday, please click here to download a booking form.
Burrow Farm Gardens provide 13 acres of colour-themed planting and lawns that sweep past an ancient oak to the lake. The Anniversary Garden, created in 2010, with its ornamental grasses and perennials, is at its best at this time of year. Other areas include the Terrace Garden, Rose Garden, Millennium Garden, Woodland Garden and Wildflower Meadow which contains two wildlife ponds.
In contrast, the one-acre plantsman’s garden at Prospect House is hidden behind high walls with Axe valley views. Well- stocked borders of rare and tender shrubs mingle with late summer perennials including rudbeckia, helenium, echinacea, helianthus, crocosmia, grasses and 200 varieties of salvia.
To join us on this day trip, please click here to download our booking form.