I have a west facing garden in London. The back of the garden gets sun from about 8/9am and the kitchen patio (you can just see the drainage at the bottom of the picture) gets sun from about 11am. The whole garden then gets sun apart from the left hand bed as it is shaded by the left hand fence as the sun arcs on the left of the garden until it swings rounds and sets at the back of the garden (behind the houses to the right at about 7pm) at which point the back fence generates some shade.

I am about to lay some turf this week and want to decide what the shape should be and what trees I should plant (after the lawn has settled). I then plan to buy garden on a roll Mixed Sunny Border and plant around the trees.

Garden size: Patio is w 6.6m x l 2.4m Rest of garden is w 6.6m x 12m

Below is my sketch with my current list of trees. I am trying to avoid large trees on the left that would steal my sun.

  1. Do you think this list of trees makes sense for the size of garden?

  2. Would you suggest alternative trees instead?

  3. What do you think about the positioning? Would you suggest an alternative layout?

  4. I plan on making the back area left of the shed a veg patch, do you think the fact it gets shade at the end of the day makes this a bad idea?

enter image description here Thanks so much for your help in advance!

Update in response to bamboo's helpful comments:

  1. We wanted to add the trees to give the garden some structure (and maybe some fruit as a bonus!), they don’t have to be big, in fact the smaller / less dense the better. If this was your garden what would you do?
  2. How about we move the Veg patch to the bottom right (No7)? And an olive tree next to it?
  3. We were going to do veg patch at the back as we didn’t want to anything too permanent there as in the future we might change this into a seating area or a kid’s play area (play bark, swing, trampoline etc)
  4. On the Silver Birch – we quite like the multi-stemmed look, like this picture?

Silver Birch Jacquemontii

Silver Birch Betula utilis var. Jacquemontii 3ft Thoughts anyone?

  1. On the Acer – we don’t have a strong opinion which type but love the deep purples. Something like this.

We also like the deep purple Japanese Maples, can you suggest one or the other that would work in our garden?

  1. On the apple tree, If we got a dwarf apple, where would you suggest we put it? What about the cox orange pipin? Which rootstock would you suggest? M27? M9?

  2. On the dual plum – we were looking at one like this: Dual Plum ‘Bleue de Belgique’ + ‘Reine Claude d’Oullins’ - Tree. Would that work?

Update 2 (Sunday) Ok, I have had another go after listening to everyone's comments. What do you think? enter image description here enter image description here

Update 3:

Here it is:

enter image description here

  • 1
    Joe!! Hi, it is stormy, yes, still here. What happened to that huge cherry tree?? Totally gone for sure. You do need to reduce the size of your lawn just a bit and get your radius curves more pronounced. One simple rationale is to use ONLY one species of tree. Your back yard is too small to accommodate a nursery. One type of plant will give you far more bang for your buck and keep your sanity. Since that major cherry tree is gone you most certainly can make a vegetable patch there. I would go for raised beds!
    – stormy
    Jul 16, 2017 at 20:15
  • @Stormy, long time no speak!, yep the tree is gone! We bit the bullet and chopped it down, we are a bit unsure but everyone including our neighbours are happy with the idea. What shape would you suggest?
    – Joe
    Jul 22, 2017 at 10:48
  • Hi there back Joe! That picture is to die for!! Jacquemontii is the only birch I use. Clean, neat and beautiful. Please try to not go crazy with species. Your trees need to be all of the same, especially in such a small yard. These birches are quite the focal point all by themselves with that brilliant white bark. When you make the edges of your lawn keep the radius for each curve continuous until you need to go the other way. No double radius within one curve. They most certainly can change but only when one curve is finished. You are making the skeleton of your yard.
    – stormy
    Jul 22, 2017 at 20:53
  • ...you can add other species AFTER you've made your skeleton. Groups of large pots for instance. That picture says so very much. Do you see the second birch? They are framing that GRAY stone wall. It is the simplicity that draws one into this picture...such a rewarding thing, a landscape, your out of doors ROOMS. Don't skimp on your plant beds, wider is better AND you are allowed to plant trees right in that lawn. A tree with a circle around the base. The same tree that you have decided to use...this birch is medium sized, I would get at least 4 having the fourth be more separate.
    – stormy
    Jul 22, 2017 at 20:59

3 Answers 3


Your garden is West/south-west facing, if the sun disappears to the top right of your image. West facing gardens get no sun at all before lunchtime. I'm afraid I'm going to give you some planting and design advice that you may not welcome. Because I'm old and can only visualize plants in feet, I've converted the size of your garden to feet, and its roughly 21 feet by almost 40 feet.

I had a quick look at some of the plants that might be included in your 'garden on a roll', so I'll pick a couple out as examples. It mentions Ceanothus, but doesn't say which variety - Ceanothus is an evergreen shrub, and depending on the variety, may reach a height of around 5 feet with a spread of 7-8 feet (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus repens), with others which are larger, up to the largest variety which is more of a tree, reaching around 15 feet tall with a crown or spread of about 10 feet. Deutzia has an average height and spread of 9/10 feet x 5/6 feet. Let's assume they send you the named variety I've mentioned, and a Deutzia - those two alone will take up 13 feet of your 40 foot of length, so quite how you're supposed to fit in all the other plants without having beds and borders 8 or 9 feet (2.5 metres roughly) from front to back all the way round, with a centre bed, I'm not sure. And that's without any of the trees you've mentioned.

I see there are two shrubs already present, Hydrangea macrophylla and something else I can only see a little of, maybe Elaeagnus or something similar, hard to say. Your Hydrangea will need a minimum five feet (1.6m) of space from the fence to the edge of the lawn over time, and it will take up that much space widthways as well, they're rounded shrubs - pruning of these is restricted to simply removing dead bits in spring as growth begins, or you won't get any flowers.

If you want to grow herbs and vegetables, all do better in sun, full sun if possible in the UK, which obviously presents you with a problem because the only part of your garden that gets maximum sun is in the centre, and people don't usually want to be staring at a vegetable patch rather than something ornamental. If you want to grow lots of different vegetables, then perhaps you could look at renting an allotment instead.

You need to decide whether you want vegetables, and which vegetables, then work out how much room they need and whether you want to sacrifice the middle of your garden to growing them, or keep a watch to see how many hours of sunlight the top left of the garden gets (this will vary hugely between summer and winter). If your patio gets sun, then growing things like tomatoes and potatoes in pots/bags is an option, as well as dwarf or patio fruiting trees. Herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage, and chives can all be planted in flowerbeds or borders, near the front so they get more sun. Rosemary gets to be a very large,rounded, woody shrub, about 6 x 6 feet and certainly requires full sun and free draining soil, so if you're not desperate for rosemary, don't plant one, or do, but plan on ripping it out every 2 or 3 years and planting a new, small one.

I'd also suggest you plan on less lawn - from experience I can tell you that the entrance to your shed should have paving slabs in front - grass wears out from constant use in one area. It would also be better to plan on having two or three large beds or planting areas, rather than lots of smaller ones as a border.

As for the trees you mention, Olive likes full sun - on the patio in a pot if it gets sun will work. I wouldn't recommend a bay tree in the ground - over time they get large and cast a particularly dense, dark shade, and can give a gloomy feel to small gardens. In a pot, as a standard maybe, will be fine.

As for the siting of something like a silver birch, the top left area, where you thought you might be growing vegetables, is about the best place, and I'd recommend Betula pendula 'Youngii' because it gets tall, but its pendulous branches are quite airy and don't cast heavy shade. If you have no other plans for that area (compost heap, storage, whatever) then turn it into a shade bed if it doesn't get much sun - put in the Birch a minimum of 2 feet away from the fences, plant in front with one or two shrubs (Mahonia aquifolium for instance) or one shrub and a few shade lovers like Hostas (need slug protection),Pulmonaria, Convallaria (lily of the valley), foxgloves, Astilbe if its damp enough. One caveat though - I can't see what's the other side of your fence, and if there's a building or structure very close, planting a tree there isn't a great idea. I live in London and realise its possible there are either already trees there, over the fence, or a building.

That's probably enough disappointment to be going on with, sorry...! Ask more if you want.


In response to your comment - think about it this way; it looks, from your pic, judging by the size of the hydrangea, that the largest depth of any planting area is around a metre max. To get a layered planting effect, you need more depth of planting area, so anything up to 2 metres wide from the fence into the lawn - it can be curved in either side, or cut off straight, but a decent planting area of mixed shrubs, perennials and bulbs looks much better if its a minimum 1.5 m from front to back, with a length as long as you can manage. That's why I'm saying less lawn,so think about what you want to plant and how much space it will take up as well as how much lawn you actually need.

However, you could just lay the lawn as you planned, and do what everyone else ends up doing - over time,cutting away parts of it to expand the planting areas. People are afraid of too much bare soil, never realising it will soon be not only covered, but insufficient for the plants they've put in. It's important to work out the height and particularly width of any plant you choose before you plant it, and that applies to all the plants you have.

I just noticed the rest of your comment - no garden on a roll is my advice, although I suppose if you know nothing about plants, it's a sort of solution, albeit a poor one. Choose your own plants...according to size, shape, colour (of leaves), and growth habit.

As for the tree, the only other place is on the right hand fence, in centre of the fence, but it still needs to be 1.5 to 2 feet away from the fence...obvious place to create a deeper planting bed with other plants around the tree - has the advantage of blocking your view of the shed from the patio too. Amelanchier 'Obelisk' would be good there, with other planting around - not too tall, columnar growth.

I just looked at the extra image you provided - I'd still choose the Birch variety I mentioned if you really want a proper,tall tree and plant it there, 2 feet from the left hand fence. It doesn't form a crown in the same way as a cherry would, so not dense shade, it'll be dappled. Otherwise, just one or two larger shrubs - plenty of them get 12 to 15 feet tall, 25 feet in the case of Prunus laurocerasus (not that I'm recommending that, I'm not).

  • Thanks so much for taking the time to respond! Ok, so what do you suggest? Less trees? No trees? No garden on a roll? (I assume they use smaller variety's as the whole idea is they have tested the garden design multiple times, but maybe you don't buy it?... ) You are correct that the back fence backs onto a kitchen extension and we just cut down a massive ornamental cherry tree from the back left corner that was taking our shade. photos.app.goo.gl/1XS6pVYiipm7z7xg1 The 2nd plant is a bay tree in a pot! (looking worse for wear as we left it alone for 2 weeks in the heat wave!)
    – Joe
    Jul 16, 2017 at 15:19
  • I also agree about a paving slab or 2 in front of the shed, but you said less lawn, would you significantly reduce the lawn?
    – Joe
    Jul 16, 2017 at 15:23
  • Ok so bigger beds, how about something like this: photos.app.goo.gl/C1PUcBCguy3mAFUi2 Any reason why you have focused on the birch, am I being unrealistic to want to add the other trees to the garden as well?
    – Joe
    Jul 16, 2017 at 16:56
  • 1
    It's better. I singled out Birch because its the only one in your list that doesn't mind a bit of shade and that doesn't form a broad crown, which would create more shade. I assumed you meant, by Acer, a taller tree variety - you didn't specify which variety. The apple could be a patio dwarf, or a single stem one in the ground; there isn't a plum suitable for growing in pots, and it will create more shade as a tree in the ground; olive likes full sun, and the bay I discounted in the answer. You certainly can't have all those trees in your small garden in the ground
    – Bamboo
    Jul 16, 2017 at 17:34
  • 1
    Your positions for planting trees of any species is way too close to the fence(s). Chose just one tree and plant 3. For your yard I would plant a small patio type tree; Amelanchier or Acer multi stemmed glabra. Too many trees, types of plants make for a discordant landscape. I am glad you've met Bamboo, she lives very near you! She is a gem when it comes to plants!
    – stormy
    Jul 16, 2017 at 20:24

Some additional considerations for you as you go through the exciting process of designing your garden.

In winter, the sun's arc is lower in the sky and in summer the sun's arc is higher in the sky. Why is this important? I've attempted to illustrate with a diagram of your back garden...

illustration of back garden

The types of trees and plants you select will have a significant effect on the amount of sunlight that is available in your garden throughout the year, especially during winter. While it is summer now and the sun reaches the back of your garden at around 8/9am, in winter this will change and the sun may not reach the back of the garden until later, perhaps 10am?

There are tools you can use to determine the extent of shadows cast by objects that block sunlight at different times of the year. If this interests you and you'd like to know more, let me know and I'll provide additional information.

So with this in mind, what considerations should you now make when designing your garden?

I'd be inclined to plant using the following basic guidelines:

Along the south fence:

  • taller deciduous trees or shrubs, keeping in mind that taller plants may still shade too much of your garden in summer when they have their leaves but will at least allow sun to shine through in winter after they have dropped their leaves;
  • shorter shade loving plants and shrubs;
  • ensure no turfed lawn area falls within the south fence shade zone.

Along the north fence:

  • taller evergreen trees or shrubs;
  • herbs and vegetables, with more commonly used herbs in the ground near the patio or in larger pots on the patio.


  • south fence is the left hand side LHS in your photo; and
  • north fence is the right hand side RHS in your photo.

My recommendations for your current garden plan are:

  1. Flowering fruit tree - dwarf apple or plum;
  2. Flowering fruit tree - dwarf apple or plum;
  3. Two or three closely planted silver birch or one Acer sp. but move closer towards back corner;
  4. Climbing rose (over shed), flowers to attract bees to garden;
  5. Bay tree;
  6. Taller vegetables (such as tomato) or alternatively another flowering fruit tree;
  7. Olive (and plant dwarf citrus in pots on patio - next to olive).

Also around the base of:

  • 1-3. Shade loving plants;
    1. Sun loving plants;
  • 5-7. Herbs and vegetables.

Trees are adaptable and so long as you provide enough space for the trunk to expand, trees can be grown close to a fence. "Rule of thumb" is to leave about 30cm / 1ft space between the trunk and fence for a smaller tree (trunk 10-15cm diameter). You will of course need to prune any branches that are growing or that will grow towards the fence, until such time that the tree grows higher than the fence.

Perhaps also worth mentioning:

  • that trees can be grown espalier. Espalier is the horticultural practice of controlling woody plant growth, by pruning and tying branches to a frame. Plants are frequently shaped flat against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis. Espaliers are great for gardens in which space is limited. In a temperate climate, espaliers may be trained next to a wall that can reflect more sunlight and retain heat overnight or orientated so that they absorb maximum sunlight. These strategies allow the season to be extended so that fruit has more time to mature. Here is a link to the Wikipedia article on espalier.
  • that your shed is in the prime position for morning sun. If you were to consider moving it, I'd suggest that you shift it to be located in the southwest corner of the garden, along the south fence. It's worth countering this comment with the fact that the shed will also cast a shadow. Also understand that this may not be possible or too much work for what you are attempting to achieve, but thought it worth mentioning.
  • Thanks so much for your response, very useful! I did think about the option of an espalier tree actually covering one of the fence panels! The shed is on a concrete base so I think its staying where it is. What do you think about my shape in general? Would you like to suggest a better one? Turf goes down on Monday so I need to decide on a shape asap!
    – Joe
    Jul 22, 2017 at 10:54
  • Currently the left side is 1m in shade so I have taken your comments on board and extended the boarder on that side (how much further will it be in winter?! I have updated my answer with a new more minimalist design, what do you think?!
    – Joe
    Jul 23, 2017 at 12:40
  • I take a different perspective on garden design to the others who have answered here. There's no right or wrong, just different opinions. I prefer the more complex original design with trees of different species. It depends on the style you prefer... minimalist or abundant? If you're seeing 1m shade now (in summer) this will increase to at least twice that distance in winter. If you're planning to grow vegetables I'd strongly recommend you avoid the back corner - too much shade - instead plant in the bed along the "sunny" fence. I like the "organic" rounded shape for your turfed area. Jul 24, 2017 at 18:11

Fire pit and gazebo bottomsimilar screen can't tell there is garbage behindgarden wallI am sending pictures of screens that would be great for an espalier as well as break up your wall of fence. Also firepit pictures...also lawn edge curves, plant beds mounded...

screen to detract from fence and notice curves of set radius and notice garden walls made of CMU concrete modular units...and walkway

consistent radius mounded bed

  • The stone steps came with the picture of the firepit...great story behind the setting of those steps.
    – stormy
    Jul 22, 2017 at 23:08
  • I have taken your comments on board re number of tress and updated my answer with a new more minimalist design, what do you think?!
    – Joe
    Jul 23, 2017 at 12:39
  • @Joe I like it! When you get this done please show us, okay? Filler plants for the rest of your skeleton planting? Lonicera pileata Great plant where you can insert perennials that act like fireworks and once they are spent the other set of perennials kicks in...safe.search.tools/images
    – stormy
    Jul 23, 2017 at 20:25

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