Best Small Tree for Spring Color: Weeping Cherry
The weeping form means this tree has been grafted and will grow outward instead of upward - great if you don't want to block a view or cast too much shade onto a small garden.
I contrast the weeping shape with upright tulips, alliums and irises that flower at the same time as the cherry tree.
The flowing form of a weeping tree reminds me of a bridal gown - so plant a tall, dark and handsome evergreen nearby to act as the groom. Thuja arborvitae and yews (Taxus), with columnar forms, provide the perfect life partners for the frilly form of a weeping tree.
Best Small Tree for Dry, Rocky Soil: Royal-Purple Smoke Tree
This tough little tree prefers rocky, dry soil with perfect drainage. Mine survives even in the partial shade and dry soil near a giant cedar tree.
It's all about the foliage on this small tree, and you can contrast the deep-purple leaves by underplanting with gray or silver groundcovers such as lamb's ear, artemesia, or Dusty Miller. These silver-leaved plants are drought, slug, and deer resistant - just like the smoke tree.
Best Small Tree for Northwest Climate: Japanese Maples
Delicate leaves, graceful growth patterns and fall color make Japanese maples my favorite trees for Northwest gardens. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, but the coral bark Japanese maple stands out during the winter months with bright-orange bark.
Highlight the coral bark color by planting orange impatiens nearby in summer, and romancing the scene with peach-tone tulips that bloom in spring.
What small trees do you combine in your garden?