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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.

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.