I still remember the first tree I planted at Kew - Eucalyptus dalrympleana.

Planting a tree is a special occasion. Chances are its going to be there for a while so choose wisely.

I’ve just had a message from a good friend in London in need of a little advice ahead of choosing a new tree for their garden.

They have a damson tree at the back of their garden which looks, and I quote, “really depressing for about eight months of the year”.

They want to replace it with something fuller and ideally evergreen to improve the level of privacy in their garden. Without seeing the garden and existing growing conditions ‘in the flesh’ I don’t really want to send them a list of suitable species – sorry to disappoint guys – but I did share with them my MO when selecting plants for gardens and it goes like this. I like to make lists.

And for this decision making process, you’ll need two of them. The first concerns the area to be planted and the second is to do with the impact of the planting.

Resist the urge to visit the garden centre or online nurseries without doing a little background work first.

The most important consideration when choosing new plants for your garden is the existing growing conditions.

No matter how much you fall in love with a particular plant, if it won’t be happy in your garden you might as well put your money down the drain. You can’t make a square fit a circle!

The type of questions you’ll need answers to include: What is the soil texture and structure like? Is it predominantly sand, clay or loam? What is its pH? Is it moist but free draining? Quick to dry out? Or water logged? Is the site your considering for your newest addition, exposed or sheltered? Does it suffer from extremes in temperature, such as excessive heat or ground frost in cold spells? How much space is available? Are there any existing shrubs, trees or buildings close by?

If you’ve only got 2m of available space, there’s no point selecting a tree with an ultimate spread of 4m.

Pigeon holing something big into a small space will only look good for so long before the competition for space results in a pretty unattractive form at the very least.

Now turn your paper over for the second list because its time to think about what you want from your new tree (or shrub etc).

Do you want an evergreen to create privacy or a deciduous tree to add interest with its autumn colour? Are berries, flowers or attractive bark important?

Establish the existing theme or planting style in your garden and choose a species that works with the existing planting.

A well thought out, cohesive planting scheme is much more attractive than a horticultural mish-mash.

Now, armed with the information from both sets of questions, you can draw up a list of suitable species before making your decision, safe in the knowledge that your choice will be a successful one.