Great forests of oak, ash, elm, pine, birch and beech once stretched across most of Europe, the dominant plants of the landscape. Their large size and longevity make them very useful plants for large gardens (over 2000 square metres). A large garden without big plants can look very flat and empty.
Forest trees are very effective at filling space, both horizontally and vertically. Mature oak and ash trees, for example, can ultimately reach heights and widths of twenty to twenty-five metres. Five or six such trees would fill a large site. Although they take well over one hundred years to reach that size, the covering effect can be achieved more quickly by planting in greater numbers.
Large trees have great beauty and dignity; there is an enduring solidity about them. Trees give the garden shape; they provide its ‘skeleton’. They can be used to provide a good backdrop for smaller ornamental plants, and excellent shelter for many non-native plants that dislike wind. For example, rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. Native tree species help to link rural gardens with the surrounding countryside.
Forest trees are best planted as young transplanted trees; not only do they root more deeply and make finer specimens eventually, but they are cheaper too. Plant them as garden woodland at an average two metres apart each way, but for ornamental purposes, never in rows.
Half the number of trees should be removed after ten or twelve years growth, half again at twenty five years. Forest tree species should not be planted within fifteen or twenty metres of a dwelling house. They can also be planted as single specimens where there is enough space for a large tree to develop.