Trees for their Growing Habit

Finding the perfect ornamental tree for your space can be daunting, but narrowing down the selection by choosing trees by their growing habit will help you find the perfect specimen. The below forms are some of the main growing habits trees will take.

Tree Habits

Albizia julibrissin 'Ombrella'®

Bushy Tree Habit

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These trees produce many branches to create a dense habit, and can often be pruned to make a more manageable shape. See below for some examples of this form:

Albizia julibrissin ‘Ombrella’ ® – Exotic, hardy, small tree with delicate feathered leaves. Dense headed, deep pink flowers from July.

Euonymus planipes ‘Sancho’ – Star shaped, green-yellow flowers followed by scarlet fruit opening to reveal dangling orange seeds.

Pinus strobus ‘Minima’ – A rounded, very slow growing, bushy plant with narrow branchlets and short dark green needles.

Sophora japonica ‘Gold Standard’ – Bright yellow stems and leaves contrast with the dark green main stem.

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Cryptomeria japonica 'Sekkan-sugi' 1

Conical Tree Habit

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The habit of these trees is broader at the base and rising to a tip at the leader. Many conifers with a straight central stem will have this shape. See below for some examples:

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan-Sugi’A small, conical, evergreen tree, with semi-pendulous branches. Leaves are pale creamy-yellow colour when young.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Alaska’Small, narrow, conical tree with spiny leaves. Female form which fruits from a young age.

Metasequoia glyptostroboidesDelicate green feathery leaves in summer and gold in autumn.

Picea pungens ‘Erich Frahm’A form of conical habit, with good silvery blue foliage and brown cylindrical cones.

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Robinia pseudoacacia 'Lace Lady'® Twisty Babe 3

Contorted Tree Habit

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The branches on these trees naturally twist and curl to produce unusual and attractive shapes. They look especially interesting in winter when the form is more apparent. Due to the interesting shapes cuttings are often used in flower arrangements and decorations. See below for some examples:

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ – Slow growing small tree with highly unusual twisted ‘corkscrew’ like branches.

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ – A dwarf patio flowering cherry with zig-zag branches and white flowers.

Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady’® Twisty BabeA dwarf Robinia ideal for patio pots. Twisted branches hold delicately curled, light green leaves.

Salix erythroflexuosa ‘Golden Curls’ Orange-yellow twisted stems and leaves, very worth while.

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Trees for Different Locations 2

Spreading Tree Habit

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Producing more horizontal branches that reach out into a broad canopy. These trees are ideal for creating shade in the garden. They also make a dramatic contrast to the more usual upward growing trees. See below for some examples:

Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’Low spreading habit. Large heart-shaped golden velvety leaves fade to green. Panicles of white flowers.

Cedrus libaniGreen-grey foliage with barrel shaped purple cones.

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’Striking silver margined leaves displayed on horizontal branches. Clusters of creamy flowers in May.

Prunus ‘Taoyame’Small tree with spreading habit. Semi double, honey scented, shell pink flowers with contrasting purple calyces.

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Sorbus 'Joseph Rock' 1

Standard Tree Habit

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With a broadly rounded crown and strong central trunk, this form is typical of many large, deciduous trees. They create wonderful specimens in gardens and parks. See below for some examples:

Acer platanoides ‘Drummondii’ – Globe-headed with green leaves and striking white marginal band. Yellowish autumn colour.

Ginkgo biloba – Bark is a dull grey, ridged and fissured. Fan shaped bright green leaves, yellow in autumn.

Malus ‘Scarlett’®Bright, shiny, purple lobed leaves turning rich, dark green with age. Orange/red in autumn. Rich pink blossom.

Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’Small, upright, compact tree. Leaves well coloured in autumn. Clusters of round creamy yellow fruit.

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Trees for Different Locations 10

Upright or Fastigiate Tree Habit

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Trees of this shape are especially useful in the smaller garden since they take up less space and cast a smaller shadow. They also form an excellent contrast with other trees. See below for some examples:

Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’Pyramidal habit, narrow when young and broadening as it matures. Good autumn colours of mellow yellow.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple’Upright form with red new leaves turning rich dark purple before falling.

Malus ‘Admiration’A charming, dwarf, upright growing Malus with semi-double white flowers and persistent small apricot coloured fruit.

Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’The best golden form although very slow growing. A tight columnar habit.

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Cercis canadensis 'Golden Falls'®

Weeping or Pendulous Tree Habit

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Branches naturally droop downwards providing a superb contrast to other forms. Some varieties will hang very steeply downwards whilst others will slope gently or just have pendulous tips. See below for some examples:

Betula pendula ‘Youngii’Weeping tree, branches reach the ground. White bark with black fissures. Serrated, glossy green leaves, golden in autumn.

Cercis canadensis ‘Golden Falls’Steeply pendulous small tree with glowing, golden yellow, heart-shaped leaves. Pink flowers in April/May.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Black Swan’A good weeping purple beech more compact and with deeper red purple foliage. Leaves open brown and go almost black.

Prunus ‘Frilly Frock’A weeping tree with profuse spring flowering, attractive variegated leaves and striking multi-toned autumn tints.

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