Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
January, 2009
Regional Report

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A properly sited small tree will accent the landscape year-round.

Deciduous Trees for Smaller Spaces

Wev'e all seen them: overgrown, threatening trees that look as if they're ready to engulf the house. That monstrous blue spruce in the front yard had its beginning as "the cute little evergreen" planted in the wrong spot. As the tree grew and matured, it overwhelmed the house. Or maybe it was the tree that was planted near the driveway or sidewalk and now you need a machete to make your way to the front door.

Trees are important in our urban landscape as they help to counteract the "urban heat island" effect. Urban heat islands are the result of removing large numbers of trees that once shaded an area. Landscaping with the right kinds of trees will help cool the outdoor and indoor environment while adding long-lasting beauty.

Today's trend toward smaller urban lots, condominiums, townhouses, and less gardening space means that large shade trees planted on a small lot will eventually dominate the landscape, create potential hazards, and limit activities nearby.

How can we grow beautiful and functional trees in the shrinking landscapes? Smaller trees are especially suited for smaller urban lots and provide both beauty and function.

Small trees are useful as a screen for privacy. Properly selected, trees can planted in limited space. Consideration should be given to growth habit including height and spread. Trees need room for growth in all directions. In some situations, trees can be clustered for an attractive grouping or screening effect. Just keep in mind that as the trees grow, branches may intertwine and competition may ensue. Proper pruning will help keep trees at desired heights and spreads, but try to keep the natural shape as much as possible.

Trees can withstand the adversities of weather and mankind. With proper care, trees will endure for many years leaving a legacy of history for future generations. So when you select a tree for your landscape, keep in mind that it will be a permanent addition. Search for kinds that will meet your specific landscape needs. Take into consideration each tree's particular climate zone rating and characteristics of hardiness in your area. Following are some of my recommendations; small deciduous trees that will thrive quite well when properly sited in your landscape.

Thinleaf alder (Alnus tenuifolia) height/spread: 15 ft/10 feet
Rocky Mountain birch (Betula occidentalis) 20 ft/15 ft
Crabapples -many good varieties (Malus spp.) 15 to 25 ft/15 to 20 ft
European bird cherry or mayday tree (Prunus padus) 15 to 30 ft/15 ft
Cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli) 20 ft/15 ft
Downy hawthorn (Crataegus mollis 25 ft/20 ft
Washington hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) 20 ft /15 ft
Toba hawthorn (Crataegus X mordenensi 'Toba) 15 ft/15 ft
Gambel's oak (Quercus gambelii) 15 ft/10 ft
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) 30 ft/20 ft
Golden raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata) 25 ft/20 ft
Shadblow serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) 25 ft/15 ft
Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata) 20 ft/20 ft
Amur maple (Acer ginnala) 25 ft/15 ft
Wasatch maple (Acer grandidentatum) 25 ft/15 ft

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