This is a thoroughly well-known tree yet still, I feel rather sparingly planted in gardens. Often known as the Maidenhair Tree, it is certainly a unique taxon, regarded as a living fossil and similar to fossils dating back 270 million years. It is native to E.China from the Tianmu Shan, Zhejiang Provence with some living specimens now exceeding 50m in height.
This is a deciduous conifer that enjoys an open position in the garden and will eventually grow to become a big tree (reaching 20m), so a measure of caution as to choice of site! It is the outstanding autumn colour that appeals to me so much and the glowing butter-yellow tints of the foliage. Ginkgos are dioecious, with separate sexes, some trees being female and others being male. Female trees do not produce cones but rather, following pollination seeds will develop into yellow-brown fruits about the size of a large grape. The smell is awful, reminiscent of rancid butter! So, I would strongly recommend choosing a male variety. I am familiar with a number of parks around the UK and Europe that have the female version on display and the fallen fruits cause real issues for passing visitors and ground maintenance staff, alike. It is completely hardy and will always provoke some interesting conversation as to its origin.
I know of two compact cultivars available which may prove to be a sensible option for those readers who are limited to space, they include:
Ginkgo biloba ‘Globus’
G. biloba ‘Jade Butterflies’
Bluebell Nursery, www.bluebellnursery.com
Binny Plants, www.binnyplants.com