Q. I need a small to medium sized tree for my front yard. Can you suggest some that would do well in southeast New York?
Here is a list of not-too-large trees to plant in the front of your home. They are highly recommended and should be a joy to behold. Plant in dormancy.
1. Acer buergerianum, trident maple, is a small, dapper, handsomely clothed tree. The habit is oval to rounded in shape. The pest-free, lustrous dark green leaves change to rich yellow and red in fall. Bark on old trunks is quite striking--gray, orange and brown--and develops an interesting exfoliating, platy, scaly character. It withstands drought and infertile soils and displays excellent cold and heat tolerance. Unlike many maples, the trident maple does not develop leaf scorch under drought stress. It's a fine choice for the small residential landscape, a street tree, or under utility wires. There are many dwarf and variegated types. A. buergerianum grows 25 to 35 feet high and 15-25 feet wide. Zones 5-8. Native to China. Cultivars/varieties: ‘Angyo Weeping’, a promising new introduction from Japan, has gracefully arching branches, ‘Mino-yatsubusa’ is a cute, graceful, dwarfish form; leaves have long slender lobes that extend to narrow apexes. Observed 4-ft. and 10-ft. trees; usually rounded in shape.
2. Acer ginnala, amur maple, is among the most cold-hardy maples and one of the most adaptable. In its finest form, the tree is limbed up, exposing the smooth gray bark and creating an artistic, sculptural element. It can be used in its natural shrubby form. Leaves range from rich dark green to excellent shades of yellow, orange, and red in fall. Fragrant, creamy white flowers appear with the new foliage in April and May and the wings of the fruit often turn a handsome red in August and September. It is one of the first maples, and one of the first woody plants, to leaf out in the spring. This maple displays excellent tolerance to dry and alkaline soils. It is a fine plant for raised planters, narrow tree lawns, and difficult sites. Fully grown, it rises 15-18 feet high and wide. Zones 3-8. Cultivars/varieties: Many selections, particularly suited to northern states: A. ginnala ‘Bailey Compact’ grows to 10 feet high by 15 feet wide; lustrous dark green foliage and rich red-purple fall color are its best assets. ‘Flame’ is more tree-like, with good orange-red fall color. It was originally introduced as a seed-grown cultivar, so expect variation in fall color.
3. Amelanchier spp., serviceberry, is an early-blooming small tree that produces abundant small, edible red fruit. A. x grandiflora grows 20-25 feet high and wide. Zones 4-8. Cultivars/varieties: Several interesting cultivars have been selected. The best of these include ‘Autumn Brilliance’, with red fall color, ‘Ballerina’, with brick-red fall color, and ‘Princess Diana’, with red fall color. ‘Robin Hill’ and ‘Rubescens’ have pink buds that fade upon opening.
4. Cornus kousa, kousa dogwood, is an elegant tree, although often lost in the landscape shadow of Cornus florida. For many parts of the country, however, C. kousa is probably a better choice, as it is less disease prone. In youth the habit is stiffly upright, almost vase-shaped, but with age it becomes rounded to broad-spreading, with distinct horizontal branches. Multicolored mosaics of gray, tan, and rich brown develop on older trunks and the jigsaw-puzzle-like pattern becomes graphically evident when the bark is wet. Creamy white flowers open 2-3 weeks later than those of C. florida. Raspberry-shaped, ½-1-inch wide red fruit appears in Sept. and Oct. C. kousa prefers moist, acid, well-drained soils in sun or partial shade. A choice specimen plant , it can be incorporated into borders or used in groups. Kousa dogwoods are resistant to Discula destructiva, the organism that causes dogwood anthracnose. Grows to 20-30 feet. Cultivar/varieties: C. kousa ‘China Girl’ is an early-flowering form with very large bracts, good fall color and large fruit. 'China Girl' is a beautiful tree with cream-yellow bracts (flowers) that mature to glistening milk white, and numerous flowers. Many more cultivars have been developed by Rutgers University, including 'Aurora', 'Celestial', 'Constellation', 'Ruth Ellen', 'Saturn', 'Stardust', and 'Stellar Pink'. Of note are 'Starlight', with cream-white bracts up to 5in. in diameter and 'Venus' with 5-6-inch-wide white bracts.
5. Malus ‘Red Jade,' weeping crabapple, is a beautiful tree that blooms after the first cherries have put on their show. Its deep, rich color is so welcome in the spring warmth. Small-to-medium-sized, cold-hardy trees, Malus new selections have been chosen for disease resistance as older ones get foliar diseases and fireblight problem. They are highly recommended by researchers and three universities for our cold climate. Malus hybrids: numerous, with new selections added yearly. Centurion® (‘Centzam’) produces red buds that open to rose-red flowers and glossy cherry-red ornamental fruit, and is highly resistant to disease. It grows 25 feet high, 15-20 feet wide. ‘Chrishozam’ (Christmas Holly® crabapple) has red-budded, 1½-inch-wide, white flowers and bright red fruit that persist into December. It has a small, spreading stature and is disease resistant, growing 10-15 feet high. ‘Indian Summer’ has rose red flowers and long-persistent, bright red fruit. Its habit is a broad globe shape and it has good disease resistance. Grows 18 feet high, 19 feet wide. ‘Jewelberry’ is a small but impressive tree with pink buds that open to white flowers. The ½-inch-wide, glossy red fruit persist into fall. It has good disease resistance and grows 8-12 feet high. ‘Narragansett’ prospers in heat, with good disease resistance. Red buds open to white flowers with pink tinges. This cultivar has cherry-red fruit (ornamental) and is a broad-crowned, small tree with wide crotch angles and leathery dark green leaves. It grows 13 feet high. ‘Prairiefire’ is red budded, with dark pinkish-red flowers and red-purple fruit. Rounded in growth habit, it is highly disease-resistant and grows 20 feet high and wide.
6. Magnolia virginiana, sweetbay magnolia, common in wet areas throughout the coastal plain of the southeastern U.S., occurs as far north as Massachusetts. Always a favorite, sweetbay magnolia is at its best on a June day, when the silvery-backed leaves are tousled by the wind and sparkle like diamonds; the lemony-sweet, floral fragrance rides on the air. Its growth habit varies from a single-stemmed tree to a large, multi-stemmed, round-headed shrub. In the North, the leaves are deciduous. Creamy white, 2-3-inch-wide, sweetly fragrant flowers appear in May and June. Grows 10-20 feet high and wide (60 feet in the South). Zones 5 -9. Cultivars/varieties: ‘Green Shadow’ is an upright pyramidal-oval form.
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- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service