Textural gray bark and delicate, sweet-smelling pink blooms make the native Southern crabapple (Malus angustifolia) a superb variety for northern sections of the Gulf Coast region. Small, tart crabapples are edible for human consumption in late summer. Deer, fox, bears, small birds and other wildlife also benefit from the ripened fruit.
When I think of great small-tree options, the Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) in my back garden is the first that comes to mind. Standing sentinel over the south side of the garden, it produces much-needed shade. The dense evergreen limbs provide safety to small birds as a landing place while they traverse the garden. And clusters of fragrant white blooms attract swarms of pollinators in spring.
Walter's viburnum (Viburnum obovatum) is a cold-hardy and drought-tolerant shrub easily trained to grow as a small tree. If you're looking for a long-lived specimen where space is a premium, you'll find this evergreen native a dynamic asset to your garden. It grows slowly (to about 25 feet) and produces small white flowers in winter.
If you prefer exotic flair in your landscape, try angel's trumpet (Brugmansia x candida). Adaptable to central and southern Florida, this plant takes on a treelike form. A frost or freeze may knock it back, but it recovers quickly in spring. Dripping with large, fragrant blooms in shades of pink, yellow and white, angel's trumpet will spice up any tropical garden.
Do you have a favorite small tree you recommend?