Ask the Expert about Trees

Ask the Expert


Hi, I’d like to plant a tree in my garden, but I’m unsure where to begin. Can you please give some advice to an enthusiastic beginner? And will I need to prune the tree once it starts growing?

Andrea Irvine


Hi Andrea and many thanks for your question.

If you are going to plant a tree the first thing you should think about is which species is best for you.

Consider why you want the tree: is it for the colour of its spring flowers, the summer leaf shape and colour, its autumn hues or the winter shades of the bark?

Perhaps it’s for scale: to provide height variation in the garden, as a focal point or as a backdrop for other plants

You may even want a tree to be a wildlife habitat that will attract attract birds and insects for its flowers or fruit?

When you’ve considered all of these factors and chosen your favourite tree, it’s important to choose a good position in the garden.

Bear in mind what height and spread the tree will achieve and how this may impact on the available space in your garden and how it might affect the shade that falls on to your house, lawn or other plants.

Any reputable tree nursery or garden centre should be able to tell you precisely what height and spread trees will achieve – be careful reading labels as sometimes these will tell what dimensions to expect only after five or 10 years!

When actually planting you should ensure you dig a pit big enough to accommodate the root system the tree has when purchased. Do not try to squeeze the roots into a small pit or cut them off to fit – this will only cause the plant to be stressed and it may not establish, grow properly or indeed die.

Once trees are fully established, most will not need pruned if the species selection and positioning has been carefully considered.

In fact, inflicting wounds may expose a tree to disease.

If you feel, however, you do need to prune, this is best done in the dormant season and you should try to prune as little as possible and retain the natural shape of the tree. No branch with a diameter greater than a third of the trunk should be removed. There is no need to treat any pruning wound with any kind of sealant

If you have fruit trees, these may need pruned more frequently to encourage production. Most fruit trees should be pruned in the dormant season but trees grown as espaliers, pyramids or fanned are best pruned in late August to early September.

Good luck!

Gerry at Greenbelt Group


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