5 small trees: can you make room for 1?

stewartia-bloomsIS 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.

ralph-shay-crabI’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.

aesculus-pavia-up-on-the-hill.jpgAlmost 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.

  1. Suzanne shaffer says:

    Planted a beauty last year part shade part sun….it’s now middle may and there is one green leaf! Do I trim all branches…..be patient…..there are buds but they seem brittle to touch but branches look still alive….any suggestions as to how to help it or is it futile?
    Thais so much for any advice

  2. Sandi Mcdonell says:

    I moved to WV about 5 years ago and found many redbud seedlings (about two inches tall) growing in the yard. potted them up and planted them and they all have survived and I have shared with friends. I now have what some people would say too many , but I love the time of year here when they are in full bloom. They bloomed really well for me this past spring and seem to be very hardy. Now I’m moving on to Kousa Dogwoods and shrubs to fill in and make it seem like I have been gardening here for a very long time. The Forest Pansy that I purchased from a nursery was placed in the wrong spot so needed to be moved from getting full afternoon sun. It was to replace a tree that I lost a few years back. I moved it this spring and it seems to be lots happier in afternoon shade location. It is a purple leafed version of the eastern redbud. I want to underplant it with the Japanese painted fern or the ghost fern. As I am getting older and am not there every season of the year I am trying to have a garden that pretty much takes care of itself.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Sandi, and nice to see you — and hear about your redbuds and other trees. Forest Pansy is a beauty, and I love the fern underplanting idea.

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