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Down to Earth: Get a tree for the garden this Xmas

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a tree - and neither are our gardens, writes Cambridge designer Robert Barker

Amelanchier lamarckii (52828789)
Amelanchier lamarckii (52828789)

December is here and now that the Christmas madness is in full flight it is easy to be so engrossed in Christmas shopping lists that we can start to not see the wood for the trees.

Trees obviously go hand in hand with Christmas decorations this time of year. I love the whole ritual of going to pick out a tree each December, bringing it into the house and breathing in that smell that fills the room and confirms that Christmas has officially started. At that point you can’t help but give in to it all and embrace what can be a magical time of year.

The interesting thing is that we put so much importance on getting a tree for Christmas that will (let’s face it) last for a few weeks, if we are lucky, but when it comes to planting trees in our own gardens we often settle for something extremely unexciting or choose something horrendously inappropriate.

Cercis Canadensis Forest Pansy (52828792)
Cercis Canadensis Forest Pansy (52828792)

For example, a friend of mine recently planted three Ginkgo biloba trees in their small suburban garden not realizing that eventually they will become so large that they will cover the entire garden. There are so many wonderful trees that will provide interest throughout the year but, as with all plants, making sure you select the right tree for the right location is key.

It is important to always be expanding your knowledge in my industry, otherwise it is easy to repeatedly fall back on familiar favourites. Whenever we create a design, one of the first plants to go onto the plan will be the trees.

When Danielle, our assistant designer, asks what tree should go in a garden we in unison always jokingly say Malus ‘Evereste’. This is because we have used it frequently and it is such a foolproof tree.

Of course, we don’t use the same tree species in every design - for our own sanity we can’t - but there is no shame in returning to plants that you know are going to be a star performer year in year out.

So, if you are planning to start the new year off with a new look for your garden then starting off with the trees first is a great place to start. Where possible, it is best practice to keep things simple and select three matching trees (if you have enough room).

Malus ‘Evereste’
Malus ‘Evereste’

Failing that one star performer will act as a focal point in any garden. Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ or Amelanchier lamarckii for example will be a star performer if your conditions are suitable.

Weather you hug it, hang things on it, or simply stand back and appreciate it, the right tree in the right place will not only give your garden a lift but will lift your spirits too.

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.

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