5 Trees for All Four Seasons
If you’ve only got room for one or two trees in your garden, you’ll want them to tick a lot of boxes - spring blossom, summer foliage, autumn colour and winter interest. You might also want your tree to provide a habitat for your garden wildlife, or one that’s suitable for a small garden and won’t grow too large. Whatever your priorities or the size of your garden, you need a tree that works hard for its space and looks good all year round. So which trees can give you all of this (and more)? These five fit the bill!
Planting a Rowan (or Sorbus) tree is one of the best things you can do for native wildlife. A single tree can support hundreds of species of insects, birds and small mammals - the bright clusters of fruit are a particular favourite of goldfinches and waxwings in winter.
Rowan seasonal highlights
- Spring: Creamy white flowers.
- Summer: Lush green pinnate leaves.
- Autumn: Fiery red foliage.
- Winter: Berries for the birds.
A brilliant choice for a small garden as they’re naturally compact in form, Crabapple (Malus) trees are hardy and easy to care for. Many people rate their flowers more highly than Cherry Blossom, they’re a magnet for pollinators and of course there’s all that delicious crabapple jelly to be made! Evereste is a classic variety and great for making jelly, or why not go for the eyecatching purple-leaved Royalty?
Crabapple seasonal highlights
- Spring: Clouds of large pink, white or even purple blossoms.
- Summer: Thick canopies of vibrant foliage.
- Autumn: A range of reds, ambers and golds.
- Winter: Rosy red or golden yellow fruits.
Hawthorn (Crataegus) trees are ideal if you love watching birds in your garden - the dense branches give small finches and tits the ideal conditions to escape predators and build their nests. They’re also a great choice for city gardens as they absorb a lot of pollution and don’t need much in the way of maintenance.
My favourite Hawthorn tree is Paul’s Scarlet - with its masses of double dark pink flowers, it always attracts lots of compliments in the spring!
Hawthorn seasonal highlights
- Spring: Covered in large white, pink or red blossom.
- Summer: Glossy bright green foliage.
- Autumn: Cloaked in gold and orange.
- Winter: Deep red haws to feed the birds.
This is probably the brightest tree in my front garden - a mass of scarlet in autumn! The great thing about Acers (or Japanese Maples) is the variety of leaf colours, from lime greens, through velvet purples to variegated varieties. Oh, and they’re very compact and low maintenance so you won’t need to work up a sweat with the pruning shears.
It’s Acer bark that draws the eye in winter, whether it’s the snake-print of Acer Davidii or the delicate peeling layers of the Paper Bark Maple, but these colourful little trees really do have something to show off about all year round.
Acer seasonal highlights
- Spring: Yellow-lime flowers.
- Summer: Masses of delicately pointed star-shaped leaves.
- Autumn: Vivid pinks, reds and oranges.
- Winter: It’s all about the bark.
Liquidambar (or Sweet Gum) trees are famous for their autumn displays in tones of crimson, amber, golden yellow and even purple - and rightly so - but they’ve got plenty going on throughout the rest of the year too. With a nicely formed pyramidal crown and starry, maple-like leaves, they’re striking in their summer colours and provide pollen and nectar for the local bee population as well as attracting admiring glances from the humans. This is one to show off in a wide open space - check out the award winning Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Thea’ or ‘Worplesdon’.
Liquidambar seasonal highlights
- Spring: Flowers followed by spiky fruits called gumballs!
- Summer: Glossy dark green stars.
- Autumn: So much colour you’ll have to wear shades.
- Winter: Ornamental bark, gorgeous structure.