We think of gardening as a time-consuming, patient, often passive activity. This is often true, but even the best and most enthusiastic gardeners become impatient. Of all the plants, trees in particular can test our patience. Your flowers may bloom at the first sight of sunlight, but the tree takes its time, growing when it wants to, at its own pace.
A lot of us don’t want to wait around for the results, we want to enjoy our trees as soon as possible. Sitting under them reading a book in summer, watching them become a home for birds and their offspring, being the final touch in your garden, or simply just blocking unwelcome eyesores. This is where fast-growing trees come in.
Fast-growing trees aren’t a magical solution, but they can be very useful for gardeners who want to see results more quickly. However, just choosing a fast-growing variety isn’t a simple route to gardening bliss. You should also consider a range of other factors. Is it pest free? Is it suitable for your soil type? You’ll need to know as much as possible about the tree variety you end up choosing – from whether it will shed its leaves in winter to its width and life span.
Many fast-growing trees suffer from weak wood, while others can be a breeding ground for pests and diseases. There are many trees that may look like the perfect choice when you see them through a photograph, but the reality may be much different. You don’t want to spend all that time and money on your perfect garden and then have it ruined by a weak or damaged tree. If you’re looking to plant fast-growing trees in the UK, we’ve put together a list of trees that should suit the British climate.
Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)
The Weeping Willow is famous for its unique lush, curved appearance. Originally native to northern China, this tree has spread across Europe and North America. This tree will grow between 1.2 metres and 2.4 metres per year and will reach around 15 metres high. With the proper cultivation, these trees can grow tall, proud and strong, achieving their beautiful unique look. However, if you’re a homeowner or landscaper, you’ll need to be aware of a few things.
Willows like standing water and will tend to grow near ponds, streams and lakes. Their roots are extremely aggressive and will tunnel far away from the tree itself. So, it’s important that you don’t plant willows any closer than 50 feet away from water and gas lines as well as electricity cables. They are also susceptible to a number of diseases cytospora canker, powdery mildew, bacterial blight, and tar spot fungus.
With the right care though, these will make a perfect addition to a garden. It will take about three years for a youthful tree to become well-situated, after which time you’ll be able to enjoy the magnificent shade created by the tree’s low canopies.
Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
This tree is made instantly recognisable thanks to its distinctive white bark and triangle-shaped leaves. These trees reach a height of 30 metres and grow by a height of 40cm a year.
The Silver Birch is one of two native birch trees to the UK. Like the weeping willow, this tree has wide-spreading roots which it uses to access otherwise hard to reach nutrients. This tree can be used to enrich the soil around it and help facilitate the growth of other plants in your garden. It’s also an extremely versatile tree, being able to tolerate a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. You can find silver birches in places as disparate as Spain and Lapland.
If you want to attract wildlife to your garden, the Silver Birch is extremely useful. Woodpeckers love the trunk, while small birds such as greenfinches eat the seeds it produces. One threat to be aware of is birch dieback, which is caused by fungal pathogens, although naturally regenerated birch (grown naturally, straight from the seed) is less prone to this than planted birch.
Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra ‘Italica’)
This tree grows dramatically upright, dominating the landscape, so much so that 19th century horticulturalists considered it ‘dangerous’ when the tree exploded in popularity in the UK. The Lombardy Poplar has an extremely quick rate of growth even for a fast-growing tree, with reported yearly growth rates of 3.6m, although it’s more typical that it grows at 2.4 to 3m per year. Lombardy Poplars reach a maximum height of 20m.
Landscapers and gardeners should be aware that this tree has naturally weak branches, meaning they are susceptible to being broken in strong winds. Additionally, the shedding of the poplar’s leaves and branches means that it can cause sanitation issues within a home environment. Its roots can also damage sewer lines.
It should also be noted that while these trees grow rapidly and grow tall, they have a very short lifespan of around fifteen years.
Also known as the cider gum tree, this tree has a stunning cream and brown bark with grey-green foliage. While this tree originates from Tasmania, these grow comfortably in the UK as they are able to withstand temperatures as low as -15 degrees Celsius. They also grow at an astonishing rate of 1.5 to 2m per year, making them a dream choice for an impatient gardener. It’s also extremely versatile, being able to grow in a variety of soil types.
The Eucalyptus Gunnii can be used to grow firewood, and is excellent for cut foliage for flower arranging. It also produces a very sweet sap that the aboriginal people of Tasmania fermented to produce a cider-like alcoholic beverage. All in all, there are very few disadvantages to this pretty, ‘jack of all trades’ type-tree, although it may require consistent pruning if you are to keep it manageable and maintain its distinctive round leaves.
Golden False Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’)
This is a truly stunning tree as a consequence of the fantastic colour it achieves all year round with its pinnate leaves and gorgeous white flowers. The Acacia is bushy in appearance, with leaves emerging as golden-yellow in the spring. It then turns a greenish-yellow in summer followed by orange-yellow in autumn. All varieties can grow well in poor soil and can tolerate dry conditions.
The False Acacia’s wood can endure for up to a hundred years, due to the high concentration of flavonoid pigments in the heartwood, making it extremely resistant to rot. The tree is generally disease and pest free, although it may be susceptible to frisia dieback.
There are many more varieties of fast-growing trees in the UK that are popular amongst gardeners and landscapers. Here are just a handful of some of the more well-known.
Originating from China, growing up to 30 metres tall and seven metres wide. most soil and weather conditions are suitable for growth and it can often be found in large open spaces, such as parks.
This durable tree can grow almost anywhere, and can grow by up to a metre every year. It will require a lot of water in order to grow effectively.
Best used as a property divider of privacy screen, these grow around 60cm a metre, reaching a total size of 12 metres.
With the exception of Japanese maples of Acers, these trees all grow quickly – again at a rate of 60cm a year – and can reach up to 24 metres tall.
A leafy tree which can grow up to 30 metres tall, gaining over 90cm a year. A perfect tree under which to enjoy the shade, due to its wide leaves.
While nature does not hurry, these trees grow a lot quicker than normal and are therefore extremely popular with horticulturalists.
All the above mentioned fast-growing trees could be just the ticket to achieving gardening perfection. Be sure to look past their aesthetic beauty and be aware of the challenges you might face looking after them. Remember to research how deep their roots grow, and any difficulties that may pose. Also look up any diseases or problems they may encounter, as you don’t want to have your hard work undone.
Remember to prune whilst your trees are still young because soon they will become too tall to properly manage, and you will need to clip your trees in order to get your desired size and shape. The great benefit of fast-growing trees is that in just a short space of time, you could be sitting under their shade, reading a book or just admiring your trees’ natural beauty.
Garden Benches have a great selection of 4 seater benches that can be perfect spots to sit and relax once your trees are fully grown, which in the case of these trees, won’t be very long at all. Our large range of benches offer our customers a great choice when it comes to comfort, size and durability.
About the author
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.