March 2001
Plant of the Month
Small Trees
zone: 4
by Steven Jorgensen

Plant of the Month
March 2001
Big Dreams in Small Places

January has passed and although it’s not spring yet, one can daydream of spring flowers, fresh smells in the air, and customers yearning to make that small space in their yard a sight to behold. They will want low maintenance, little mess, and big value for their dollar. Give them something unique with good color and a full season of interest and you just may have a customer coming back for more.

Whether used as a specimen planting, a splash of color in a drab corner of the yard, or just a planting along the boulevard; small trees can give the eye something other than a grass lawn, small shrubs and the neighbors mail box to look at.

A small tree can include such varieties as ginnala maple, tree form serviceberry, japanese tree lilac, or a small prunus variety. Although reasonably small, they still may grow to 20-25 feet in height and be just too large for that out of the way corner the customer has dreamed of. Grafted trees, some weeping varieties, and truly small upright trees can fit into a space where 8-15 feet looks just right.

Grafts or buds are usually placed on a single stem standard at 3-5 feet. They give the advantage of a tree that will remain small and grow in a very defined area. Caragana arb. ‘Pendula’, Weeping Caragana when budded creates a cascading effect of yellow flowers, that can accent a garden area. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’, PeeGee hydrangea, trained on a single stem, will grow to a height of 8-10 feet and show a beautiful white bloom in mid summer. Blooms then age to a bronze pink color and can be used for arrangements when dried. Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’, dwarf Korean Lilac grafted on a 3-4 foot standard has a beautiful deep green foliage, a neat round shape, and forms an interesting accent, including lilac flowers and nice fragrance.

Small weeping trees include Malus ‘Louisa’, Louisa Crab which grows to 12-15 feet in height and spread. This small tree is disease resistant, and boasts an unusual yellow fruit which holds fast, well into the winter season. Malus ‘Red Jade’, Red Jade Crab grows to a height and spread of approximately 12 feet with glossy foliage and good disease resistance. Flowers are white to pink followed by beautiful persistent red fruit.

Upright yet small trees may include Cornus racemosa ‘Jade’ Snow Mantle Dogwood. Hardy to zone 3, the tree measures 12-15 feet in height and 6-8 feet in spread with arching foliage. Snow Mantle has profuse white blooms followed by white fruit which persist well into late fall. Crataegus Crusgalli ‘Cruzam’, Crusader Hawthorn measuring 15 feet in height and 10-15 feet in spread is a small thornless tree with white flowers and silver grey bark. Crusader has a round shape, nice orange fall color, and abundant red fruit.

Magnolia kobus var. stellata ‘Royal Star’ is a zone 4 magnolia tree growing to a height of 8-10 feet with large 3-inch white fragrant flowers and deep green foliage. Fall color is yellow to bronze and the plant is quite compact. Finally, please consider the Roundtable Series of crabapples, varieties that grow to approximately 8-10 feet in height and spread, are quite hardy, and have persistent fruit.

Malus ‘Camzam’, Camelot Crab has dark thick green foliage and good disease resistance. I have been growing this tree on the north side of my home, in the twin cities area, for the past five to six seasons and every spring the tree becomes a mass of fuschia pink on white blooms. Grown wit minimum care in a tight space the tree sets burgundy fruit each and every year. The fruit is persistent and is slowly eaten by the birds during the winter. Malus ‘Guinzam’, Guinevere Crab has a nice round shape with nice dark green foliage with a burgundy cast. Flowers are mauve white followed by dark red fruit. Malus ‘Lanzam’, Lancelot Crab has an upright shape and forms a nice canopy of branches. White flowers with red buds are followed by an unusual golden veil of fruit.

Other small trees may be worth a look, some with varying degrees of hardiness and disease resistance; but these are some of my favorites. Give that small area some pizazz and your client’s neighbor may just ask “where did you find that gorgeous tree?”

By: Steven Jorgensen
Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

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