Suggestions for Yard Trees

Crab apple Tree

Edmonton is in the zone 3 area, so trees from Zone 0-3 can survive the cold weather here. Toronto is zone 5-6, and Victoria is zone 8-9 . What a diverse country we share! When landscaping a new yard, one needs various types of trees, some fast-growing that can more quickly create privacy or shade, some flowering and/or fruit /nut trees, some trees to attract birds, if you like, some evergreen, and some accent or smaller ornamental trees. Listed below is information on some of our favourite yard trees. We happened to find great information on all these trees on the user-friendly and informative local Edmonton Salisbury Nursery site. We are sure there are many great sites for our Readers to do more tree research on personal favourites. Please feel free to share additional resources that you find helpful and/or to share stories and photos about your favourite trees – we welcome guest Bloggers, too!

It occurs to us that like everything else, there are trends with plants and trees. Lucy loves the incredible scent of the MayDay Tree, but senses it was more popular in days gone by, although luckily it remains still all around us. Hydrangeas have become very popular as a flowering plant in both Edmonton and Toronto, especially now that they have created varieties that survive colder winters, and we imagine it is true that there are more varieties of each tree all the time too, through genetic modification and adaptations. That can be a topic for another Blog. Currently there are many narrow or “columnar” trees designed for our trend towards smaller  and narrower properties. In general, there is great abundance of varieties for each type of tree, and that is where the local garden centre can help you choose the one best for you. (Salisbury Nursery website: https://bit.ly/3clfEQ5)

Privacy Trees

Faster Growing Privacy Trees

Poplar Tree (Trembling Aspen)

Vireo in Poplar Tree

“This tall narrow tree is a great tree to plant to block wind and to create privacy between you and your neighbour, as well as being a great tree to plant in  narrow yards. A Hybrid popular can grow eight (8) feet a year if you want privacy sooner than later. There are more than a dozen varieties of Poplar to choose from. Most trees have a down side and with poplars it is that they create a lot of leaves in the fall, they have very extensive roots and they can spend a week in June shedding poplar fluff.”  

Slower Growing Privacy Tree

Purple Spire (Columnar) Crabapple 

Matchcode: MAXPSPIR. Height: 5m (16 FT.). Spread: 1.85m (6 FT.)

“The Purple Spire Crabapple is a narrow, columnar, slow growing screen, border or specimen tree. It has compact burgundy-purple foliage and pink blooms in mid-spring which mature to sparse ornamental fruit. This tree is perfect for placing close to decks and driveways and prefers a moist, well-drained soil.”

Flowering Trees

Spring Snow Flowering Crabapple (fruitless)

We are learning from the very helpful Salisbury Nursery site that this tree is a highly regarded ornamental tree just covered in snowy white flowers in spring, a hardy fruitless variety with a tightly oval habit of growth. It makes a beautiful accent in the front yard, very clean and tidy, and needs well-drained soil and full sun. Lucy has this tree in her back yard and knows first hand that it is wonderful for birds, bees and butterflies too.

Ornamental Features – “The Spring Snow Flowering Crab is blanketed in stunning clusters of fragrant white flowers along the branches in mid-spring, which emerge from distinctive shell pink flower buds before the leaves. It has dark green foliage throughout the season. The pointy leaves turn yellow in fall. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.”

Landscape Attributes and Design Tip – “The Spring Snow Flowering Crab is a deciduous tree with a narrowly upright and columnar growth habit. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.”

Planting & Growing – “Spring Snow Flowering Crabs will grow to be about 25 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 15 feet. The tree has a low canopy with a typical clearance of four (4) feet from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 50 years or more.”

“This tree should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers to grow in average to moist conditions, and shouldn’t be allowed to dry out. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This particular variety is an interspecific hybrid.” (Source: Salisbury Nursery: https://bit.ly/3epTEpa)

Fruit/Nut Bearing Tree

Evans Cherry Tree

Evans Cherries

This is a sour cherry tree that grows well in Zone 3, created at the University of Alberta.  Its bright red cherries are excellent for pies and jams. It is self pollinating, and reliably produces a ton of fruit and grows 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Lucy gifted one to her sister in Toronto, however, she has not had the quantity of fruit that it bears in Alberta.

While Lucy has moved from the home where she had this cherry tree, luckily one of her new neighbours has a few and invites her to pick the fruit. Even so, Lucy is thinking she may have to plant one again as it is surely her favorite tree. A sour cherry tree usually needs to be four-to-five years old before it bears fruit, so when it comes time to purchase a new tree, Lucy will be sure again to look for one that is three-to-four years old years old. The sooner to begin making her sour cherry pies again!

If Readers can recommend any specific apple or other fruit trees that produce great fruit, please let us know and we will feature these trees in our upcoming blog(s).  For that matter, we would love to learn about any and all the trees you love/have loved in your yard – please let us know so we can feature them. Don’t be shy!

Trees to Attract Birds

Crab apple Tree

Shrubs and trees that hold seed and fruit into the fall, such as crab apple (robin, cedar waxwing), honeysuckle (robin, catbird), cherry, chokecherry, dogwood, spruce (pine siskin, nuthatch, crossbill), birch (pine siskin, american goldfinch), and mountain ash (see birds below) will tempt migrating birds on their way south.

Russian Mountain Ash

Height:  30 feet Spread:  20 feet Sunlight:  Full Sun  Hardiness Zone:  2b

“The Russian Mountain Ash is a stunning pyramidal accent tree, and shade tree featuring clusters of white flowers in spring followed by orange-red berries into winter; shiny grey bark, attractive compound leaves that turn orange and yellow in fall. It needs well drained soil and is resistant to fireblight. This is a relatively low maintenance tree, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. It is a good choice for attracting birds to your yard.” 

From our research we see there are at least 10 varieties of Mountain Ash. Lucy recently saw a number of cedar wax wings, house finch, robins and bluejays in her neighbour’s Mountain Ash. Birds also like and find shelter from predators and the wind, such as in the fine tangles of her ornamental lilac and cedar trees.

Evergreens

Even though evergreen are colourful year round, and require less maintenance, with no raking of leaves and less trimming, it is important to know they should not be planted close to walkways, streets, or buildings, as their base can grow very wide and roots may become a nuisance. Evergreen trees have branches very close to the ground and work well for blocking wind, so they’re a good choice if you live in a windy area.

The City of Edmonton no longer plants spruce or pine on residential boulevards because their broad base will become an obstruction as the tree matures.  Of course, if you have a large property, these trees will fit in well, as will large shade trees. Here is one evergreen Lucy has the privilege to look at everyday out the front window, as it is in her neighbour’s yard. It is a stunningly narrow evergreen called the Weeping White Spruce.

Weeping White Spruce Picea glauca ‘Pendula’ 

Height:  50 feet. Spread:  10 feet. Sunlight:  Partial to Full Sun Hardiness Zone:  2a

Description: “This stately evergreen has nice blue-green foliage that hugs the trunk, sweeping downward to create a fantastic impression; it prefers sun or light shade and rich moist soil but is adaptable; and, offers the perfect accent tree for defining lawn areas or walkways.”

Ornamental Features: “Weeping White Spruce has bluish-green foliage which emerges light green in spring. The needles remain bluish-green throughout the winter. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.”

Accent and Ornamental Trees

Amur Maple. Acer ginnala

Height:  20 feet. Spread:  20 feet. Sunlight: Partial to Full Sun  Hardiness Zone:  2a

Description: “This is a choice small tree, among the hardiest of all maples with incredible fall colors ranging from orange to scarlet and burgundy red, with colorful seeds in late summer. It is  one of the best accent trees for small home landscapes.”

Landscape Attributes: “Amur Maple is a deciduous tree with a more or less rounded form. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage. This is a relatively low maintenance tree, and should only be pruned in summer after the leaves have fully developed, as it may ‘bleed’ sap if pruned in late winter or early spring. It has no significant negative characteristics.”

Planting & Growing – “The Amur Maple will grow to be about 20 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 20 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of four (4) feet from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 60 years or more. This tree does best in full sun to partial shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist locations, and should do just fine under average home landscape conditions. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This species is not originally from North America.” Other popular maple trees are Sugar Maple, American Maple, and Japanese Maple of which Salisbury Nursery featured seven (7) varieties in its November 14, 2019 blog.

Russian Olive Tree

Height:  25 feetSpread:  20 feetSunlight:  Full Sun Hardiness Zone:  3a

Description: “An excellent small tree for color contrast use, with true silver foliage all season long; also features subtle yellow flowers with an overwhelming fragrance and small silver berries; an excellent choice for dry, windy sites or alkaline soils.”

Ornamental Features: “The Russian Olive has attractive silver foliage throughout the season. The fuzzy narrow leaves are highly ornamental but do not develop any appreciable fall colour. It features subtle fragrant lemon yellow bell-shaped flowers along the branches in late spring. The fruit is not ornamentally significant. The peeling brown bark and silver branches add an interesting dimension to the landscape.”

Olive Tree

Landscape Attributes: “Russian Olive is an open deciduous tree with a more or less rounded form. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.”

“This tree will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. Deer don’t particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration: disease and becoming spiny.”

Planting & Growing – “Russian Olives will grow to be about 25 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 20 feet. This tree has a low canopy with a typical clearance of four (4) feet from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 50 years or more.”

“This tree should only be grown in full sunlight. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist locations, and should do just fine under average home landscape conditions. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for xeriscaping or the moisture-conserving landscape. It is particular about its soil conditions, with a strong preference for clay, alkaline soils, and is able to handle environmental salt. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This species is not originally from North America.”

Urban Trees

We are learning about the trees that are best suited to Canadian / North American climate zones, and, in this Blog post we profile many trees that thrive in Edmonton’s Zone 3 and Toronto’s Zone 5-6 climatic regions. Tree information sources like the Salisbury Nursery site that we have drawn from for our post, also identify trees like the Amur Maple and Russian Olive as being tolerant of urban pollution. Unfortunately, this is now a necessary consideration when choosing for tree planting success if, like us, you are a city dweller.

We will investigate this aspect further and the challenges of fostering a healthy environment for trees within the complex urban ecosystem in a future Blog post. And, we will continue to profile tips from landscaping and tree experts to help you in choosing and caring for the perfect tree in your planting quest and tree success.

For now, thanks to Reader Maureen for this book recommendation, we close with one potential information source and way to begin exploring this topic together with the young people in your circle – anyone home schooling these days?

Toronto author, Andrea Curtis, recently published, A Forest in the City,” which Quill and Quire rates as suitable for the 8-12 year old age range. You can read more about what to expect from this beautifully illustrated book in this Good Reads review https://bit.ly/2XF7w8X. and this piece by CBC Books https://bit.ly/2xmRplV.

In honour of Earth Day, we will post on Wednesday next week – April 22nd.

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