Add some style and structure to the garden this autumn with multi-stem trees. We show you how below!


Multi-stem trees combine elements  of both trees and shrubs, bringing benefits that make them great garden choices.

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.

Prepare the planting area by removing all competing weeds and plants

Dig over the area with a garden fork, mix in some multipurpose compost to improve structure, then tread down and rake level.

Sit the tree, in its pot, on the soil and slowly turn it until you are happy with the positioning. Most plants have a better side – make sure it is on show!

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.

Remove the tree and add a shallow layer of topsoil to the bottom of the hole, then mix a handful of root-promoting bonemeal to the bottom, and mix another handful to the pile of excavated top soil.

Remove the tree from it’s pot and if roots appear matted around the rootball, tease them out for quicker establishment into surrounding soil.

Set the rootball centrally in the hole and backfill in layers, treading down each layer to knock out air gaps

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