Firstly, look at the site. Is it sunny? Is it sheltered? If it is in a wind corridor, a street where the wind blows through, in winter this will be very cold and exposed. Conversely, a sunny sheltered courtyard may allow you to plant a more tender tree, such as an Olive tree or Magnolia grandiflora.
What are the site restrictions and what characteristics do you want from the tree?
Trees with interesting bark can contribute so much in winter. For instance, Betula utilis jacquemontii, with its white bark. Prunus serrula- with its shiny mahogany bark- these two trees are exceptional in urban parks.
Good autumn colour is important for a street tree. What better than the leaves of bright yellow falling from an Acer campestre for children to scrunch through in the autumn? If there is room for the tree’s roots and for its crown, this is a lovely tree. If space is more limited, try fastgiate (upright) hornbeam which is yellow/brown in autumn, or fastigiate beech, for bright orange autumn leaves.
If you prefer red autumn colour, trees with scarlet leaves are numerous and the scope is greater ,if space allows. Choose from Quercus rubra if there is plenty of room or even a Liquidambar styraciflua. If space is restricted there are some pyramidal forms of Liquidambar. Both these specimen trees have fabulous autumn colour- scarlet leaves and stunning interest from October onwards. They make stunning urban trees and transform an urban street in autumn. It is best if there are soft landscaped beds for the tr.)ees roots to develop.
Above all, try not to restrict yourself to planting tiny trees with small crowns (such as Malus or Sorbus) unless space is really tight. These trees are more suited to a small garden and generally have a more limited impact on street amenity than larger trees.
Do not plant trees closer than 3 metres form your house and always bear in mind services runs, so that tree roots do not restrict affect services.
On sites where there is a medium amount of space, you can think about using more native trees to attract wildlife, Prunus avium (Wild gean) makes a lovely large tree, with white blossom and fabulous autumn colour. The white beam, is a smaller tree but just as attractive to wildlife and produces silvery leaves and in winter red berries for birds and wildlife. Plant Sorbus aria or use another native, hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) where space allows width.
For urban gardens, Prunus or orna.)mental cherry, have white and pink blossom, in single and double flowered forms, from weeping to fastigiate. If space allows you can choose a round crown for maximum shade and interest. Useful trees are Prunus Ama-no-gawa (a very narrow,fastigiate cherry tree) for very limited space.
Finally, look at using the maximum size and best shape of of tree for each site, as this will contribute the most to the neighbourhood in which it grows. In maturity these trees will provide more foliage, blossom and increased wildlife interest if thery are native, supporting birds and mammals all year round. If you are generous about tree size and spread, the ultimate rewards will be to your whole community; the street’s “end users”, not only inhabitants of the urban space but also visitors who will enjoy the spectacle of a softened street, lots of autumn colour and winter interest, all year round. Plant bare root trees from Nov- March. See our other tree blog for details.