How to - Gardening Resources

10 outstanding trees for small gardens

Lorraine Flanigan

Meet ten perfect trees that won't overshadow your small garden.

Even the smallest garden can make room for a tree. Whether it’s an elegant potted Japanese maple or an eye-catching magnolia, trees are essential in small gardens. Not only do they form the foundation of the landscape, they can shade a sunny patio, block an awkward view or provide much needed privacy.

When selecting the right tree for a small yard, first consider its mature size. Cute saplings can quickly grow into brutes that overwhelm the site. Second, look for multi-season interest. Trees need to earn their space in small gardens by providing colour, texture or a dramatic form in spring, summer, fall and even winter. Also, look for dwarf forms. Instead of a full size white spruce (Picea glauca), which can top 25 metres, plant a dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana ‘Conica’), which grows to only three metres.

Small gardens have plenty of room for trees to grow upward. Columnar, fastigiate and upright forms of trees, such as beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple’), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘fastigiata’) and tulip (Liriodendron tuliperifera ‘Fastigiatum’), are slender enough to fit into small spaces.

These 10 trees are top choices for small gardens.

1. Amur maple (Acer ginnala) is a compact, dwarf form of maple tree that’s much more appropriate for small spaces than its many imposing relatives.
Size: Only five metres tall and wide.
Zone 2

2. Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) produces a froth of yellow flowers in early spring. There are also variegated and golden forms.
Size: Eight metres tall by six metres wide.
Zone 4

3. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is worth growing for its exfoliating cinnamon coloured bark alone, but its startling fall colour is a bonus.
Size: Seven metres tall and about five metres wide.
Zone 6

4. Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) cultivars come in a wide range of forms and leaf shapes.
Size: From two to six metres tall.
Zones 5 to 6

5. Magnolia (Magnolia) hybrids and cultivars come in a range of sizes, but one of the best for small gardens are “The Girls” hybrids: ‘Ann’, Betty, ‘Susan, ‘Jane and ‘Judy.
Size: Range of sizes
Zone 4

Don't see what you're looking for? Here are five more trees for small gardens!

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