While pretty flower pots, hanging baskets and shrubs all create a picturesque scene, trees have the potential to add depth and height into any outdoor space.
Planting a tree may seem daunting at first, but the right choice will create a striking focal point in your garden or transform a cluttered area into an open, peaceful haven.
Whether you're looking to add a pop of colour or keep it looking fresh all year round, here are the 20 best trees to plant in your green oasis this year.
Best trees to plant in the garden
Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'
The star among Japanese maples, for its truly brilliant orange-red autumn colour. Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki' is a vibrant tree that can grow up to four metres tall and is suitable for low maintenance, busy city gardens and smaller courtyards.
This tree grows best in moist, but well-drained soil and its leaf colour develops beautifully in partially shaded areas.
Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'
Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' or 'Senkaki' has brilliant, really yellow foliage with an extra punch thanks to contrasting bright red twigs.
A great focal point in any outdoor space, this tree blooms neatly throughout the year. Its bright, coral-red bark is especially visible in the winter.
Snowy mespilus (Amelanchier lamarckii) has something special each season, and birds love the fruit. It’s a tough, go anywhere tree.
The pretty, snowy white flowers bloom in early spring, before shades of yellow-green develop during the summer. Red berries appear in July.
The pink berried rowan (Sorbus vilmorinii) is a very neat, compact mountain ash with ferny foliage and berries that change colour the wrong way round — from red to pink and then white.
This versatile tree looks lovely in gardens all year-round, with its bright red berries attracting an array of birds. Its leaves begin to fall in autumn, before dainty white flowers make a return during the springtime.
Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ forms a narrow, upright column and is clad in wonderful pear blossom in spring, with good foliage that colours up well in autumn.
Bred by Edward Scanion in the United States, Pyrus calleryana is perfect for urban areas with harsh conditions. It also grows well in a range of different soils.
Chinese paperbark maple
The Chinese paperbark maple (Acer griseum) offers great shape, superb autumn colour and shaggy, peeling, gingery bark that shows up best in winter.
An Acer griseum is best suited in an area dominated by lawn, while full sunlight helps to maximise its enchanting autumn glow.
The Siberian pea tree (Caragana arborescens) is an unusual tree for a ‘difficult’ situation, as it withstands heat, cold and wind. It has a light canopy of ladder-like leaves and yellow pea flowers followed by pods. It’s also good in pots.
Introduced in the US, the pea tree grows relatively fast. Its nitrogen fixing capability means it has the potential to grow well in poor soils too.
The Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) produces pink pea-flowers that sprout straight from the branches and trunk, before the heart-shaped leaves appear. These are followed by red pods.
Associated with Judas Iscariot, one of the original Twelve Disciples of Jesus Christ, this tree was introduced in England in the 16th century. Its slow growth, unique appearance and ability to grow in a range of soils, makes it a popular choice for gardeners.
The myrtle (Myrtus communis) is a multipurpose evergreen with small bay-like leaves, gingery bark and spiky white flowers in late summer, followed by black berries that birds adore.
It has culinary uses, and takes kindly to trimming and shaping so is ideal for pots.
Japanese angelica tree
Japanese angelica tree (Aralia elata ‘Variegata’) forms a large shrub or smallish multi-stemmed tree with variegated foliage and large heads of frothy off-white flowers in autumn. The spiky trunks show up well in winter.
Perfect for attracting wildlife, bees will be pleased to see the dainty blossoms in the summertime, while birds can enjoy the small dark-coloured fruits that sprout in the colder months.
Chilean fire bush
The Chilean fire bush (Embothrium coccineum) can be trained as a small tree, its sparse canopy lighting up with orange-red ‘tongues’ of fiery flower in early summer. It prefers acid soil and should be sheltered from drying winds.
Its vibrant scarlet flowers are simply stunning, brightening up gardens during the summer and creating an eye-catching focal point, when trained into a decorative arch.
Eucryphia x nymansensis 'Nymanysay'
This conical evergreen tree produces masses of large, white, cup-shaped flowers with clusters of yellow stamens in the centre.
This tree is best planted in early spring in a sheltered area, where the soil is moist in summer and its roots are protected from the sun.
'Nymanysay' also requires little or no pruning, while its glossy leaves appear to keep most pests and diseases at bay.
The sycamore tree (Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Brilliantissimum’) is a small tree with a light canopy of shocking pink leaves in spring.
A small, slow-growing tree. The young leaves change to pale yellow-green, then darker green with yellow marbling as the year progresses.
Interestingly, the scientific name Acer pseudoplatanus means 'like a plane tree'.
The strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) produces flowers and ripe strawberry-like fruits (from the previous year) all at once during late autumn.
While they are often found on the edge of olive groves close to the sea in Greece, its serrated leathery foliage and refined shape helps it look neat in British gardens too.
The tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) is breathtakingly beautiful in full bloom, reaching nearly two metres tall. The various varieties offer massive chalice-shaped blooms in frothy pinks, oriental reds or pristine white.
Ideally placed in a sheltered position, to prevent strong winds breaking the branches, peonies are best planted in the autumn and require minimal pruning.
Chinese red birch
The Chinese red birch (Betula albosinensis) is one of the ‘posher’ birches, with pink and cinnamon peeling bark. The winter branches also have the same warm tones and appear coral-pink against a clear winter sky.
The tree's leaves turn pale yellow during autumn, but by the time summer arrives, the foliage appears as an unusual sea green.
Mount Etna broom
The Mount Etna broom tree (Genista aetnensis) makes a wide, weeping tree with bright green twigs instead of leaves. It needs little attention, then in July bursts into yellow bloom.
Growing up to eight metres tall, this tree grows well in sunny, impoverished areas, and is best planted in poor, but well-drained soil.
Sambucus racemosa ‘Plumosa Aurea’ is a flamboyantly shaggy golden elder. Naturally forming a large shrub, it’s best trained as a multi-stemmed tree or can be pollarded.
Easy to grow and prune, this tree is particularly ideal for cottage gardens and its golden colours will illuminate your outdoor space in full sunlight.
Magnolia x loebneri
Magnolia x loebneri varieties make superb small trees. ‘Leonard Messel’ is a popular favourite because of its abundant pale pink flowers in mid-spring.
Suitable for smaller gardens, this tree grows well in a range of soils and can eventually grow up to eight metres tall.
The honey locust tree (Gleditsia triacanthos) offers light, ferny foliage. The coloured-leaved varieties, such as golden ‘Sunburst’ or mahogany-red ‘Ruby Lace’, are small and slow growing and will do well in pots.
This delicate looking tree is ideal for smaller gardens, while its soft colours beautifully complements plants with dark purple leaves.
This article is kept updated with the latest advice.