The Q&A Archives: Garden Planning

Question: I would like to extend a perennial garden on the side of my front lawn into the middle of the lawn to create a barrier between the front street and my house. The extension would be about 10 ft. long. I would like to plant a colourful (Maple) or flowering (Magnolia)tree
(no more then 15

Answer: Here are a few suggestions:
Amelanchier arborea--downy serviceberry, Juneberry, or shadbush, 15 to 25 feet in height. This shrubby tree features white blossoms early in spring. The dark green leaves become orange to red in autumn. Smooth bark with narrow fissures becomes ridged and furrowed with age. The fine, elegant texture is attractive even in winter. Base selection of cultivar on height, growth habit, fruit size, and fall color. A. x grandiflora is also recommended.

Chionanthus virginicus--fringe tree, 15 to 25 feet in height with an equal spread. The shape of this tree is variable, but generally spreading and open. Multiple stems are common. Flowers are very showy and similar to the Japanese tree lilac. Fruit forms only on female trees and looks like loose clusters of grapes. Autumn color is yellowish and variable. The bark becomes ridged and heavy as the tree matures.

Cornus kousa--Kousa or Chinese dogwood, 20 to 25 feet in height with an equal spread. Mature specimens have horizontal branching. Textured, exfoliating bark is attractive in winter. The floral bracts appear later than those of the native dogwood and the fruit is larger and showier than in Cornus florida. This tree or multistemmed shrub is borer and disease resistant. Dark green leaves turn reddish-purple to scarlet in fall and are effective for several weeks.

Cornus mas--cornelian cherry, 20 to 25 feet in height with a spread of 15 to 20 feet. Small yellow flowers open in very early spring before the leaves appear. This is a multistemmed shrub or small tree with a rounded form. The exfoliating bark varies from gray-brown to rich-brown and is attractive all year. Fall foliage color is minimal. Fruit is cherry-like and drops in late summer.

Crataegus phaenopyrum--Washington hawthorn, 20 to 30 feet in height with a spread of 20 to 25 feet. This rounded tree is dense and thorny. The white flowers in spring and glossy red fruits in autumn, persisting into winter are very showy. Foliage is lustrous green in summer, turning orange to scarlet or purple in autumn. For excellent fruit, fewer thorns and a slightly larger tree, consider C. viridis ' Winter King.'

Magnolia stellata--star magnolia, 15 to 20 feet in height with a spread of 10 to 15 feet. Attractive white to gray bark is best appreciated against a dark background. White, fragrant flowers open in early spring and are often damaged by late freezes and wind. ' Royal Star' blooms slightly later than the species and other cultivars. Dark green leaves turn yellow to bronze in autumn. Grows better in acidic soil.

Malus hybrids--crabapples, 12 to 25 feet in height with an equal or lesser spread. Very showy spring flowers are followed by colorful fall fruit. Some cultivars have persistent fruit. There are many cultivars and selection should be based on flower, foliage, fruit, habit, and disease-resistance characteristics.

Parrotia persica--Persian parrotia, 20 to 40 feet in height with a spread of 15 to 30 feet. This is a foliage tree, with leaves unfolding as a reddish-purple, turning to a lustrous green and then finishing in fall as brilliant yellow to orange to scarlet. With age, the bark becomes exfoliating, revealing an array of gray, green, white, and brown. The petalless flowers appear before the foliage and the crimson stamens are curiously attractive.

Styrax japonica--Japanese styrax or snowbell, 20 to 30 feet in height and an equal or greater spread. The white, bell-shaped flowers are beautiful and showy May to June. The foliage turns yellow to reddish in fall and is held on the tree late in the season. This low-branched tree is finely textured and has a horizontal structure that is distinctive in winter. The bark is grayish brown and smooth with irregular, interlacing fissures of cinnamon brown. Hardy to Zone 5, this tree should be grown in a protected, east-facing exposure. Plant in a well-drained, moist, acidic soil.

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum--doublefile viburnum, 8 to 10 feet in height with an equal or slightly greater spread. Horizontal branching structure produces a strong effect, especially in front of a brick wall. The leaves are nicely textured and turn reddish purple in fall. Very showy white flowers appear in May. The fruit, which is usually eaten by birds, is bright red changing to black. It is effective in July and August. Good cultivars include ' Shasta' and ' Mariesii.' Zone 5 to 8.

Berberis thunbergii--Japanese barberry, 3 to 6 feet in height with a spread of 4 to 7 feet. This densely branched, rounded shrub is one of the first to leaf out in the spring. Foliage is bright green turning orange, scarlet, and reddish purple in autumn. The foliage tends to hide the small yellow flowers, but the bright red berries are showy beginning in October and continuing into winter. Cultivars to consider are ' Aurea' and ' Kobold.' Recommended purple foliage cultivars include atropurpurea ' Crimson Pygmy' and ' Rose Glow.' Berberis koreana, Korean barberry is similar and also recommended.

Cotoneaster apiculatus--cranberry cotoneaster, 3 feet in height by 3 to 6 feet spread. Stiff, herringbone pattern of branching is interesting all year. Glossy green leaves turn a bronzy-red to purple in fall. The small, pink flowers are attractive at a close range. The cranberry-red fruit provide an excellent showing in late fall through winter.

Fothergilla gardenii--dwarf fothergilla, 2 to 5 feet in height with a similar spread. The white, fragrant, bottlebrush-like flowers appear in early spring before the foliage. Leaves are dark green to blue-green, turning yellow, orange to scarlet in autumn, holding color late into the season. The slender, zig-zagging stems forming a dense colony are interesting in winter. Plant in partial shade in a well-drained, acidic soil with high organic content.

Hydrangea quercifolia--oakleaf hydrangea, 4 to 6 feet in height with an equal spread. This rather coarse shrub provides an excellent contrast in the landscape. The foliage is a deep green in summer turning to red, orangish brown, and purple in autumn. The flowers open white in late June and age to purple-pink and finally brown. The bark of mature plants is cinnamon-brown and exfoliates.

Ilex verticillata--winterberry, 6 to 10 feet in height with an equal spread. Slender stems with dense branching make this a fine natural screen. Leaves are a deep green in summer but no significant fall color. The fruit is bright red and ripens in late August, persisting into January. ' Sparkleberry' is a choice hybrid cultivar due to excellent fruit color. As with other hollies, both sexes are needed to get berries on the female plants. Plant in moist, acidic soil with a high organic content.

Rhus aromatica--fragrant sumac, 2 to 6 feet in height with a spread of 6 to 10 feet. A low, irregular, spreading shrub with a medium texture. Ordinary green leaves turn orange, red to reddish-purple in autumn. The yellowish flowers yield fuzzy, red-orange fruit in autumn, persisting into winter. ' Gro-low' is a recommended low-growing cultivar. Adaptable regarding soil texture, it grows best in acidic soil. Grows in full sun to partial shade.

Viburnum opulus ' compactum'--dwarf European cranberrybush viburnum; 2 to 4 feet in height with a slightly greater spread. This upright, spreading, multistemmed shrub forms a rounded mound. The glossy, dark green leaves turn yellow-red to reddish-purple in autumn. Showy white flowers appear in May followed by berry-like fruits in September. The dwarf cultivars do not fruit well. This plant is very adaptable to a variety of soils and grows in full sun to light shade.

Best wishes with your new garden!

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