The Q&A Archives: Small Street Trees

Question: I am chairman of the local renaissance committee. Our group has been asked to recommend a suitable tree for planting in our downtown area. We planted Bradford Pear trees approximately 10 years ago; however, they have outgrown the sites and in some places are pushing up the sidewalks. We have a beautiful Victorian era main street with somewhat narrow sidewalks. We would like a tree that would grow to the site and not overwhelm. Preferably a tree with blooms, no fruit and colorful fall foliage if possible. The bradford pear fit the bill except for its size. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Answer: I like the sound of that -- renaissance committee! How about hardy crape myrtle? These are semi-dwarf trees that grow just 7' tall and bloom profusely, and leaves turn red in fall. There are also Amelanchier species (shadblow, juneberry are common names). They bloom snowy white in early spring, have small fruit that birds enjoy, and turn fabulous golden orange-red in fall. Dwarf crab and cherry trees will drop some fruit, but the payoff is those bountiful blooms and vibrant foliage. I don't have specific varieties to recommend, but your state arborist/urban forestry/parks department should have a list available to municipalities. It's a good idea to have a mixed planting, too, to reduce the likelyhood of epidemics of pest/disease problems - stability in diversity. Best of luck!

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