A question submitted by Jill Meyjes via our Ask a Question page:

I am looking for a very small specimen tree for a sunny aspect near a patio. Have had 2 Kilmarnock’s but both eventually died, perhaps too dry. Have heard recently somewhere in the media, (might have been Val Bourne in Telegraph Gardening), mention of some very small cherry trees and wonder if you know anything about them? Or do you have any suggestions?

Would love to hear from you.

Chris replies:

Many thanks for your question Jill. Yes, Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’ requires plenty of water and regular pruning to keep the stem and catkin production on track. However, the good news is there are a number of trees we could recommend for your garden location, including a less vigorous Salix. If the tree receives some shade in the garden then we would certainly consider Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’. This attractively marbled variegated foliage tree would provide plenty of interest through the late spring and into the summer, but it does require a moisture-retentative soil to prosper. Short quarter standards cost around £15.00.

The cherry tree you might have seen mentioned in the newspapers could be Prunus incise ‘Yamadei’? This makes a small tree, however when in flower it is covered in an enchanting mass of white single bell-shaped flowers (see close up picture). Prior to the flowers, the buds are pale green. The deeply serrated foliage is light green and develops orange/red hues in the autumn. This dainty bushy and slow growing tree will grow to just 3m x 3m (9ft x 9ft) in 20 years and so is ideal for a very small space or container growing. This form of ‘Fuji Cherry’ will grow well in most situations but avoid very wet or very dry soils. Short quarter standards cost around £35.00.

The other prunus we must mention is the showy Prunus ‘Snow Showers’. Again, a highly trainable small garden tree reaching 13ft x 6ft (3.9m x 2m) in 10 years, but can be easily pruned to stay compact. It’s best described as a lovely, small, profusely flowering dwarf cherry with spectacular dense single white flowers which cover steeply pendent branches in late March. Good autumn leaf colours too! We sell these in 12-litre pots at around £40.00; however they are trainable if you wish to keep them relatively compact.

Another good doer is Cotoneaster ‘Coral Beauty’. This versatile plant has small white flowers in the spring followed by attractive berries in the late summer and into the autumn set against evergreen foliage. The plant is usually grafted (top-worked) onto a quarter stem; expect to pay around £27.00.


Finally, if you are looking for a real scene stealer, then look no further than Fagus sylvatica ‘Black Swan’. A slow growing weeping purple leaved beech with attractive dark red-purple leaves and cascading habit, Fagus 'Black Swan' grows to be a small and elegantly weeping tree. The best foliage colour can be seen when planted in a position with plenty of sunlight. Best of all, its narrow and weeping habit make it useful where space is limited. This tree will cost around £60.00, but the tree is already 6ft tall!

We hope these suggestions help, there’s plenty of choice, it’s just a matter of deciding on the tree that fits the criteria best.

All prices quoted were as 15th July and are subject to change. Please call us to check availability of items listed. Many items can be sent through our Mail-order department; however this would depend on overall height of the tree.

Figure 1 - Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’