IS THERE ROOM FOR ANOTHER TREE in your landscape, if it’s a small one? I seem to always be trying to make more room in mine. As you head out nursery-shopping, perhaps this list of some of my favorites will help focus the treasure hunt. They all have something in common: multiple seasons of interest; no one-trick ponies or flashes in the pan on this list. And the winners are…
With surprisingly timed summer flowers, hot fall foliage and handsome, peeling bark to recommend it, Stewartia pseudocamellia (top) is a treasure. It grows happily even in part-shade, and reaches about 25 feet here. Read its profile.
Perhaps the smallest tree I grow (maybe 5 feet tall and 9 feet across at present) is an oddball weeping Kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa ‘Lustgarten Weeping,’ which stirred some controversy at A Way to Garden when I almost sent it packing last spring, after years of non-love for it. I relented, and made it a proper home of its own, as you said you desired.
Another small Kousa, perhaps the best, is the variegated one called ‘Wolf Eyes,’ just 6 or so feet tall and 10 feet wide. It’s like a beacon, even from a distance, with white-edged foliage and all the other kousa-dogwood traits: big white spring flowers, large red high-summer-into-fall fruits, and foliage that warms up as it prepares to fade and drop in fall.
I’m crazy about crabapples, with their springtime show but most of all their fall-into-winter fruit that the birds and I adore. My favorite red-fruited one (above), ‘Ralph Shay,’ is hard to find, with bright red crabapples big enough to poach. Among gold-fruited kinds, I like ‘Bob White,’ whose small yellow crabapples don’t get all brown and mushy, but mellow instead to a sort of butterscotch color; not gleaming, but nice enough. Both trees probably reach 20 feet.
Almost nobody seems to grow Aesculus pavia, with its vivid red chestnut-like flowers (above) that come mid May onward in my Zone 5B garden, where it lives on the hill far above the house.
The red buckeye is native to the coastal plain of North Carolina but quite hardy for me. It is a shrubby small tree, perhaps 12-15 feet high and wide, and leafs out early with chestnut-like foliage. I know I promised that every plant in this list has multiple seasons of interest, and maybe this doesn’t…but red flowers? Can’t we give it extra-credit for having red flowers—how many temperate-zone trees can offer that? If you push for more, I’ll say the red buckeye’s blooms are followed by large brown seed capsules (called buckeyes), but I don’t think wildlife eat them and frankly, they are more a curiosity item than an ornamental trait.
What other small trees do I covet? We’ll see what comes home in the pickup with me when I head out shopping before too long.