6 Trees Loved by Landscape Designers
From providing shade and natural play areas, to supplying food and homes to wildlife, to enhancing air quality and curb appeal, the benefits of trees are myriad. Here are six types that rank high with landscape designers.
1. Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis)
Native to: Northern California, the Sierras, the San Joaquin Valley, and the extreme southwest of California, Utah and Arizona.
Attractive to hummingbirds and other pollinators, western redbuds are in the pea family and can also make a delicious addition to salads. They bring ever-changing seasonal color to a garden, from bright pink blooms in late winter and early spring, and heart-shaped green leaves appearing soon after. The leaves transition to red and mahogany in the fall and early winter.
Growing tips: Because a mature western redbud only measures 3 to 15 feet tall and wide, there is often a possibility to plant them in multiples, which brings a grove-like effect. Hardy trees, they grow in USDA zones 7 to 9, require low to moderate water, and like full sun to partial shade.
2. Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana)
Native to: Eastern coastal U.S., from eastern Massachusetts south to Florida and west to Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
A versatile tree, it is easy to prune and is perfect to plant close to patios or walkways. Sweetbay produces creamy white flowers with a light citrus aroma from spring into summer, as well as a moderate shade. It can get up to 35 feet tall and wide.
Growing tips: While its water requirements are low, Sweetbay is often found in swampy sites — a testament to its versatility. In general, once the plant is established it will need little care. It prefers full sun to partial shade and is best grown in zones 5 to 10.
3. Ginkgo Tree (Ginkgo biloba)
Native to: China.
An extremely hardy, pest-free tree, Ginkgo trees are a symbol of strength and longevity. They are a popular as a street tree.
Growing tips: Tolerant to almost any conditions, they are generally noted as slow-growing trees. However, planting in full sun will encourage faster growth. A mature tree can get up to 70 feet tall and 30 feet wide. Best grown in zones 3 to 8. To avoid the unpleasant smelling fruit that ginkgo trees produce, consider planting male cultivars, such as Autumn Gold.
4. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Native to: Japan, China and Korea
Adaptable and resilient, they are great trees for less-than-ideal situations or confined spaces, such as a narrow lot patio or entry garden. Since they only grow to be 15 to 25 feet tall and 10 to 25 feet wide, Japanese maples are a versatile size and offer elegance and stature in a diminutive package.
Growing tips: Japanese maples are generally susceptible to sunburn and drying out, so it is not the best option for a hot south face or open hot areas. They prefer soft dappled shade or morning sun with afternoon shade, and grow best in zones 5 to 8.
5. Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Native to: Eastern, central and southern U.S., from Texas to Florida to Maine.
A nice sized tree — 15 to 30 feet tall and wide — flowering dogwoods can take partial shade so that they make great understory trees. They produce pretty white or pink flowers in the spring and have beautifully colored autumn leaves. Native birds enjoy the fruit they produce.
Growing tips: Moist roots and a bit of shade go a long way with flowering dogwoods. They thrive in zones 5 to 9, require moderate water and partial sun to partial shade.
6. ‘Marina’ Strawberry Tree (Arbutus ‘Marina’)
Featuring a distinct cinnamon-colored bark, and coral and white bell-shaped flowers year-round, it is versatile and relatively pest- and disease-free. The tree looks at home in a variety of settings and can be used as a screen. In addition, it attracts hummingbirds and other wildlife.
Growing tips: Best planted away from walkways due to its red and yellow fruit, it prefers full sun and requires little water. At maturity the tree will grow to about 25 feet tall and wide, but can get as tall as 50 feet. Grows best in zones 8 to 11.