Monday, January 13, 2014

Small Trees that Fit a Small Yard

Many gardeners are stumped when designing a small garden.  The options of trees, shrubs, perennials, containers, vegetables, patios, fire pits, and a barbeques all seem to overwhelm - the choices are endless. And we want it all!  The dilemma is further exasperating when familiar plants are just too big for the space.

Trends in housing in the U.S. seem to be leaning toward smaller homes, smaller yards, patios and balconies typical of urban living.  Even suburban properties are following this path also, and folks are giving up 'excess' for a more manageable manner of living.

This charming area is appealing with a feature of one tree. 

Many trees would not work here.  The space demands a limit to size - and here are a few lovely trees that will fit any small garden.  I've kept the list of trees to ones that have a maximum height of 25 feet.  These trees are sometimes considered under-story trees since they grow in the shadows and shade of taller trees in the grove.  Some trees have been cultivated to be specimens or ornamentals in the landscape. Small trees structure can give an added element of interest to the garden. 

Sweet Bay Magnolia has multiple trunks

Blooms of Sweet Bay Magnolia
Sweet Bay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana,  is a small tree for the small garden.  It grows to 10' to 20' and has interesting structure.  The fragrant blooms would be well appreciated near a patio or deck. Hardy in Zones 5 - 9, the dark green leaves have a silver underside. The Magnolia appreciates acidic soil but does well in sandy soil or loamy gardens that are well drained. 
Pagoda Dogwood

Pagoda Dogwood, Cornus alternifolia

Pagoda Dogwood blooms are not brilliant white and berries are a dark purple. Wide spread of limbs makes this tree a great choice for an ornamental specimen in the garden.  This tree is found in most of U.S. and is hardy to Zone 4.

Cherokee Sunset, Dogwood, Cornus florida

Variegated Foliage of Cherokee Sunset (photo complements of Glyn Lowe)
This Dogwood is stunning and grows in Zone 5 - 8 to a height of 10' to 25'.  

Krousa Dogwood, 'Wolf Eyes'

The small variety of Dogwood grows to
only 6' to 10' and is shade tolerant.  Nice berries attract birds and deer are not drawn to this shrub type plant.

Chionanthus virgninicus, Fringe Tree

Fringe Tree is a native in the Eastern U.S. and is hardy in Zones 4 - 8.  This small tree grow to about 12' to 20' and has purple fruit. Fall foliage is clear yellow.  Stately plant is wonderful when in bloom.

Japanese Maple are exquisite specimens in a small garden.  Foliage is deeply cut and can be green or red.  Many varieties are small, and weeping.  Some look more like a shrub and stay close to the ground to anchor an area. 

Floating Cloud


There are many Japanese Maples to choose in the market place.  Evaluate your space and research mature height for your tree.  Talk to the garden center associates to determine which tree is right for you. 
Small gardens and yards have a determined size, and putting a plant in that will overwhelm the space is like putting an elephant in the room. Scale is a design element that can get out control if plants are not carefully chosen.  So a small tree that highlights a small garden can be the element that is needed. 

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