Add some style and structure to the garden this autumn with multi-stem trees. We show you how below!
Where dense shrubs might create an enclosed feel, or where bare tree trunks might bring a sparseness to planting areas, multi-stems can provide a sense of openness yet fill their space from ground level up.
They grow taller than a shrub can, and have a larger foliage mass compared to standard trees with the same trunk girth (good where shade is needed).
If you want to make real structural impact with decorative bark, multi-stems are the best choice. I’m planting a Himalayan birch (Betula utilis jacquemontii) for it’s peeling bark, which as the tree matures, falls away (or can be removed by hand) to reveal fresh white bark, which makes a great feature through winter.
Here’s how to do it:
Multiple branches make for tricky transporting, considerate nurseries and garden centres will have film wrap or string to pull branches together so you can fit your tree in the car. Also place the container in a rubbish sac to prevent compost filling the boot of your car. ON arrival home, unwrap and water your tree in its pot.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the tree’s container, but not much deeper. If your topsoil is shallow, barrow away subsoil rather than use it to backfill. The picture above shows a forkful of heavy clay sitting just 20cm below the surface.
Your tree shouldn’t be set much below the soil surface – too deep and rots, moulds and diseases can take hold at the base of the stem. Set the pot in the hole and lay a bamboo cane or tool handle across the hole to check planting depth.
Multi-stems have a lower centre of gravity compared to standard trees and therefore need no staking. They look good underplanted with all manner of low growing perennials, grasses, seasonal bedding. Here i’ve set out Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle) to act as a carpet and interspersed these with tulip bulbs