Small ornamental trees are exactly that - trees that grow 10 to 30 feet tall. Whether in a postage-stamp patch of green or a large estate, small trees enhance any landscape - like living statues or pieces of natural art. Many species have striking flowers, berries, and foliage.
Here are a few of my favorites for the Upper Midwest:
If you're looking for a spring superstar bloomer, add star magnolia to your landscape. One of the first bloomers in early spring, this tree produces an explosion of dancing star-like flowers, punctuating the air with a slightly sweet fragrance. Star magnolia can be used as a tree or shrub. Glossy deep-green foliage is the crowning touch to this lovely specimen. Plant star magnolia in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. This small tree loves acidic soils and hates standing water. Prune to shape after blooming period.
One whiff of lilac sends me back to my grandmother's garden. Through the beauty of science these shrubs can be enjoyed as small trees. For example a dwarf Korean lilac is available as a tree form, also known as a standard. In the spring the tree's canopy drips with fragrant pastel-color blossoms - enough to make you mad with delight! Plant in a sunny location, feed early spring, and prune (only to shape) within six weeks after blooms wilt.
Although you may not think of Japanese maples as good options for the Upper Midwest, there are several varieties that can withstand zones 4 to 5 if planted in a somewhat protected area. I've enjoyed years of beauty from my slow-growing Japanese maple, 'Emperor'. Early in the season it sports dark-red foliage, which changes to brilliant scarlet in the fall. This tree thrives in partial to full sun and needs to be watered often. It makes an ideal focal point and looks stunning planted against dark-green shrubs or evergreens.
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