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Dunnington Parish Council

Looking After Our Trees

Trees For Small Gardens

Trees make a valuable contribution to gardens, providing shape, colour, shade and visual interest in built-up areas. They also help wildlife by providing nesting sites, food and pollen, as well as the atmosphere by absorbing and retaining carbon and releasing oxygen. Factors which need to be considered carefully when selecting a garden tree include; height, spread and proximity to buildings; visual appearance; environmental impact; and maintenance needs.

Height, Spread and Proximity to Buildings

The height and spread of a selected tree must be judged in relation to its intended position and closeness to buildings. Guidance on currently recommended safe distances of different species of trees and their heights from buildings can be found on various websites including:

Trees and their recommended safe distances

Guideline Distances from Development to Trees (external PDF file)

One potential problem with planting larger trees too close to buildings that may increase over time with climate change and drier summers is the drying out of the surrounding soil due to the large amount of water the tree will absorb, so think about the long-term in considering appropriate distances.

Detailed guidance on the height and spread of individual varieties of garden trees can be found on the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) website and in Alan Mitchell and Allen Coomes book The Garden Tree: An Illustrated Guide to Choosing, Planting and Caring for 500 Garden Trees.

Visual Appearance

Both of the above sources provide illustrations of the visual appearance of numerous potential trees which might be considered for gardens. Relevant factors include whether it is evergreen or deciduous, whether it has attractive flowers in the Spring and attractive berries or other fruit later in the year, and whether it has attractive bark.

Environmental Impact

Trees such as apple, crab apple, damson, hawthorn, winter-flowering cherry and wild cherry provide important sources of food for bees and other pollinators (please see the UrbanBees website).

Maintenance Needs

The maintenance needs of trees include raking up leaves, which has the advantage of providing potential over-wintering homes for hedgehogs and numerous insect species and leaf-mould for garden soil enrichment. Planting trees too close to a pond, however, will result in fallen leaves rotting in the pond, a consideration that reinforces the desirability of drawing up a good scale plan of the garden to help identify where trees might suitably be planted in relation to the other garden features and buildings. All trees may need careful pruning, fruit trees in particular and the picking of fruit may be difficult if the wrong root stock is chosen for the tree. Detailed advice on the choice of suitable rootstock for different fruit trees to ensure a more manageable fruit tree height can be found on the RHS website.

Finally, consideration needs to be given to whether there are better alternatives to a tree in a particular site. There is, for example, a great range of flowering shrubs available which can provide colourful displays of flowers and fruit during the year, as well as the environmental benefits of providing valuable fruit and nesting sites for birds and pollinators. The BuzzAboutBees website, for instance, contains several recommendations of such flowering shrubs that will help our threatened bee population.


The Parish Council is providing this new page for residents to highlight which trees are within the village conservation area, which trees have tree preservation orders on them and, if you are thinking of planting, afew ideas for trees for small gardens.

City of York Council: Information on Trees in Conservation Areas with map.

CYC Tree Works Planning Applications related to tree preservation orders and trees in a conservation area.

We are indebted to volunteers from Friends of Hagg Wood and Dunnington Conservation Group for their help with this page.