Your first thought may be fruit trees, and it is impossible to fault the idea of a blossom-laden apple, pear, plum or cherry tree in spring time. However, there are many other flowering trees widely available, in all shapes and sizes, evergreen or deciduous.
There are a few factors to take into consideration when choosing your tree:
How big? Probably the most important is height and spread, for even small ornamental trees may eventually reach a height of 6-7m (18-21ft) or more. If your garden is small, consider a weeping tree, as these rarely get very big, and if spread could be a problem, choose a columnar tree. If you want to plant a flower garden under your tree, look for one that casts light shade or has small leaves.
Looking good: deciduous or evergreen? If you go for evergreens you will sacrifice the lovely autumn colours of some deciduous trees. Then there are the colours of the flowers, foliage, fruit and not forgetting that some trees have eye-catching bark. And of course, there is the flowering time to consider. Many flowering trees are fragrant and will fill your garden with lovely scent.
Ornamental flowering cherry trees (Prunus) can be spring or winter flowering. They can produce single or double, white or pink blooms on upright or weeping stems. All of them enjoy well drained soil in an open, sunny location. Pruning is rarely necessary.
Flowering crab apples (Malus) are extremely popular ornamental trees, producing glorious pink and white blossom in April and May, and attractive fruits in the autumn. These are red or gold, and edible though sharp – good for crab apple jelly, or leave the fruit on the tree for the birds to feed on in winter. Almost all are small to medium sized trees, thriving in a sunny position in well drained soil.
Rowan, Mountain Ash or Whitebeam (Sorbus) are grown principally for their colourful, berry-like fruits produced in autumn and their ornamental foliage. This is typically a small tree, usually reaching a maximum height of 10-15 metres.
The Magnolia adds a touch of the Orient to the garden. The most familiar is Magnolia soulangiana, with big leaves and large, goblet-shaped, fragrant, white flowers striped with red outside, and over time gnarled branches, whilst stellata varieties have less fleshy and more open star-shaped blooms. Magnolia grandiflora and its dwarf form, Little Gem are evergreen, and there have been several new evergreen introductions of late. Magnolias prefer an open sunny position, protection from strong winds, but will tolerate a little shade. As with all trees,water regularly until established and mulch the roots until well established.
Dogwood (Cornus) is a surprising tree, with showy, long-lasting flowers (actually bracts) that start green in June and change gradually to creamy white, until later in the summer they become flushed with pink. Cornus florida can grow eventually to 7.5m (23ft), even 12m, tall. Cornus kousa, at a possible height of 7m (21ft), grows more slowly and is suited to a small garden – its bracts last longer, the leaves have good autumn colour with bright red fruit in a hot summer.
Many other less common flowering trees are stocked by us so don’t be surprised to find a Judas Tree [Cercis], a Sophora, an Indian Bean Tree or just a common or garden Laburnum!