Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
July, 2011
Regional Report

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Paperbark maple bark glows against the sun.

Small Trees of Note

This is a magical point in the summer when the heat is not intolerable, the bugs are still minimal, and everything is at its lushest point. As I look around my yard, I certainly enjoy the full-blown perennial garden, but I'm struck at the beauty of some of the more subtle plants such as the small trees. So I've listed below some of my favorites that are not quite the usual plants, but ones you might consider adding to your landscape.

Paperbark Maple
My paperbark maple catches my eye best at sunrise and sunset. The lovely peeling cinnamon bark absolutely glows when the sun is behind it. This small maple is at home in a partially shaded setting and is a lovely plant for the corner of a one-story house since it grows to only thirty feet (and very slowly). Its soft, matte green leaves turn bright red in fall. I've planted it so I see it every morning.

Fullmoon Maple
For anyone who wants the beautiful irregularity and fern-like leaves of a Japanese maple but knows how unreliable they are, a fullmoon maple is the answer. They are small and low-branched like the Japanese maple, but they are completely hardy to USDA Zone 5 and seldom show scorch. They grow well in a partially shaded site, and have attractive bark, lovely red samaras in spring, and brilliant red fall color.

Fernleaf Beech
I've put a fernleaf beech in every landscape I've owned. These are cultivars of the European beech but are much slower growing. The leaves are finely cut and appear much like ferns, giving the tree a delicate, ethereal appearance. The crown is low but can be pruned up, and the fall color is magnificent golden. This plant also grows in shade.

Red Horsechestnut
Many people are familiar with the standard large, white-flowered horsechestnut, but the red flowered variety is not as common. This tree has a high crown as it matures, and has stunning six to eight inch high clusters of rosy red flowers in spring. The unique compound palmate leaves give the tree a tropical ambiance.

Serviceberries or shadblows are common landscape plants and for good reason. They are wonderful! They have interest in four seasons, with clouds of white flowers in spring followed by deep green leaves and bright red to blue fruits in summer. The fall colors range from bright yellow to orange to red, and when the leaves drop, the shining silver bark adorns the winter landscape. This, too, grows as an understory tree in the shade.

Carolina Silverbell
This diminutive tree is native to the southeastern United States, occurring along stream banks and on wooded mountain sides. In spring, it is draped with creamy white, bell-shaped flowers that hang in delicate clusters.

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