landscape

Compact Trees - Good Things Come in Small Packages

Compact Trees – Good Things Come in Small Packages

By Shane Neufeld and Christina McDonald

In the nursery, customers often ask us to recommend trees small enough to fit an urban landscape. Many have battled with a tree that has overgrown its site – branches endangering power lines and roots invading flowerbeds. However, there are plenty of compact choices with shorter heights, narrower spreads, and more balanced forms than typical trees.

Know What You Want

Before you choose a compact tree, try to estimate how large you'd like it to be at its full growth. You should also take into account how much sunlight is available, what your soil conditions are, and what function you would like your tree to accomplish—will it provide shade, screen off unpleasant views, fit in with an existing theme? Do you want fall colour, or an evergreen? By knowing these things before you head to the nursery, you stand a much better chance of finding a plant that suits your garden.

The Short List

These are some of our favourite compact trees. Some of the varieties mentioned here are naturally compact, while others are the result of hybridization programs. All are great choices for gardeners looking for big beauty in a small package. Regardless of your space and design constraints, there are many varieties to meet your needs.

Dwarf Deciduous Shade Trees

Fast-growing and particularly disease resistant, 'Assiniboine' and 'Prairie Sky' poplars are great choices for smaller yards. Also check out 'Bailey's Schubert' chokecherry, 'Snowbird' or 'Toba' hawthorn, 'Advance' mayday, or 'Columnar European Mountain' ash.

Compact Ornamental Fruit Trees

Ornamental fruit trees provide an awesome spring showing of blooms, attractive small fruits and frequently great fall colour. 'Mountain Frost' pear and 'Rosy Glo' or 'Siberian Columnar' crabapples are terrific compact ornamental fruits.

Dwarf Fruit Trees

You don't have to have a huge amount of space to enjoy fresh fruit from your tree. Dwarf apple trees have normal sized fruits of exactly the same variety as full-sized trees, but with more manageable yields. Look for dwarf 'Norland,' 'Norkent,' 'Fall Red,' 'Goodland,' and 'September Ruby.' 

Evergreens

Columnar evergreens are always popular, and 'Brandon,' 'Degroots Spire,' and 'Holmstrup' cedars offer very narrow columnar forms in a variety of heights. Junipers such as 'Blue Arrow,' 'Cologreen,' and 'Grey Gleam' or spruces like 'Cupress,' 'Dwarf Serbian' and 'Iseli Columnar Blue' are definitely varieties worth trying.

Training Shrubs to Single-Stem Tree Form

Training Shrubs to Single-Stem Tree Form

Looking to add a distinctive feature to your yard? Try training shrubs into a long, branchless central stem topped with a full head of foliage. With quality plants, the right technique and patience, you can transform your favourite shrubs into dynamic tree silhouettes. Here’s how.

  • Start with a high-quality shrub in a one or two gallon pot and plant as you would any shrub.

  • Examine the shrub and select the largest, healthiest stem. This will become the ‘trunk’ of your tree-form shrub. Prune off most of the other stems, leaving some extra branches untouched for the moment. The extra foliage of these branches will give the plant the energy it needs to grow.

  • Maintain the tree form by pruning off new side shoots so that all of the plant’s energy goes into the remaining stem.

  • Stake and rod the stem to keep it upright. The rod and stakes should remain in place until the selected stem is able to support the weight of the plant.

  • Once the shrub reaches the desired height (1.2 m of clear stem is a good guideline), clip the top to force buds out, and remove any buds on the stem. This is also the time to remove those extra branches you left on the stem for plant growth. Treat like a normal shrub to produce a nice round head.

  • The shrub will continue to produce shoots in unwanted areas. Remove these shoots to maintain the tree form.

Make sure your expectations are realistic—training will not transform a 2-m tall shrub
into a 4-m tall tree, though your shrub may grow a little taller than usual because the
plant’s energy has been redirected to a single, central stem.

You can train almost any shrub, but here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Amur maple
Russian olive
Lilac
Evans cherry
Ninebark
Potentilla
Dogwood
Hardy roses
Hydrangea
 

Multi-Stemmed Tree Forms

Many large shrubs can be trained to multi-stemmed tree forms of three, five or seven
stems. Russian olive and amur maple look beautiful when trained to these forms.

Buying Tree-Form Shrubs

If you like the look but don’t feel like doing the work, you can buy mature shrubs in tree
form. Some of these shrubs are trained to tree form (dogwood, potentilla, ninebark, hydrangea), while others are created by grafting a shrub such as lilac or caragana to a
compatible rootstock. Note, however, that grafted tree-form shrubs are generally easier
to maintain than trained tree-form shrubs, as the rootstocks are chosen both for height
and their tendency to avoid creating side shoots. Grafted tree form shrubs come in a
variety of heights. In some cases, the central stem may be a metre tall, in others only
half that. It all depends on what the grower has chosen.

Two Simple Landscape Plans

Two Simple Landscape Plans

By Christina McDonald

Faced with the challenge of landscaping a new front yard? Maggie Clayton, professional Landscape Architectural Technologist, suggests two simple plans using hardy plants that are commonly available and easy to grow. These plans can easily be implemented in a fairly standard 35 x 15 m yard and acknowledge property lines and good neighbour policies by positioning the trees carefully. The plans allow for access to modern, narrow sidewalks and paved driveways and offer some privacy from the street.

Design Sense

A good design incorporates not only colour, texture and seasonal interest in a variety of forms, but also offers views from the interior of the home. “All too often people don’t realize that they can actually create their own views or correct a poor one,” Maggie says. Look out windows and note where a well-placed tree, shrub or entire planting could provide a point of interest to be enjoyed from outside and inside your home. Think of it as reverse curb appeal. The placement of outdoor lighting, statuary and water features can all be added with the same views in mind. Try adapting either of these plans to your back yard—just substitute the driveway for a patio, pool or deck.

A good design can also make quick and substantial improvements. Foundations can easily softened and linked to their surroundings by planting shrubs and perennials of differing heights in a slightly raised bed directly against the building. The use of hot and cool colours in these beds can visually pull or push the house toward or away from the street.

Plan One—Sun

The beauty of this perimeter scheme is that neighbours can plan and plant together to create stunning joined beds that make both properties look great. Designed for a sunny, south facing yard it creates a frame for the edge of the property that takes into account not just light conditions but also the amount of heat the area receives. Once established, the suggested shrubs and perennials are considered drought tolerant. “Amend your soil when planting to help hold what moisture there is and remember to mulch thickly,” Maggie advises. Installing a drip hose is another way to reduce moisture loss by providing water only where the plants need it most.

Plan Two—Shade

Try this landscape plan for north facing locations with somewhat moist soil. It offers good use of foliage from tried –and-true perennials and shrubs. The more shade tolerant plants are placed closer to the house, with the classic kidney- shaped bed highlighting those requiring more light. The focal tree, either an Amur maple or a hawthorn, can be pruned to an open form that allows maximum light through to the plants below.

Quick & Easy Garden Tricks!

Not everyone has a lot of time to spend in the garden, but that's okay! The good news is that with a few easy tricks, you can still have great looking gardens in a matter of minutes. Here are a few easy to do examples that took less than 10 minutes to make each, and look fantastic!

Rather than planting individual flowers into your garden, a quick way to fill your garden with flowers is to use hanging baskets instead.

Simply dig a small hole, remove the flowers from the hanging basket pot, and place into the hole, filling in the soil around it. That's it!

Repeat as many times as you'd like. It looks great and takes only minutes! 

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

For these pots, we simply filled them with potting soil, added two planters to, and one hanging basket each, to make instant flower pots that look as though they've been growing in the pot for months!

Stop by Hole's today!