Today we wrap up our series on small trees and ornamental shrubs to mix and match in the landscape. Choices have varied from tall to short, bushy to open-branched and leafy, needled and/or flowering/fruiting, for planting in “layers” for a lush look. The thrust has been to point up multi-tasking choices that not only enhance the surroundings with beauty but provide sustenance through fruit or pollen to birds and insect pollinators and often, safe harbor for nesting birds. While some choices offer edibles to the grower, the general overview is for a combination of attractive practicality.
The Malus species includes apples and crabapples – the standard sizes of which are not viable for our focus on small ornamental trees. Many of these do not set fruit, but blossom beautifully for the benefit of bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. They include a huge variety of options, setting blooms ranging from white through pink to rich raspberry red. Our illustrations show two of them. Visit area nurseries for ideas.
The Prunus genus includes peaches, plums, cherries, almonds and apricots. Again, there’s an enormous variety of choices for these small trees that range from those setting actual fruit to blossoming types only. The weeping cherry shown is an example of the beauty of this genus. Any and all add such an array of delicate loveliness to the landscape along with benefit to pollinators and nesting birds, that some time in nursery-shopping is well spent.
Shrubby fruitbearer/ornamentals such as blueberry, raspberry-blackberry and many cultivars are available. I enjoyed the small but richly bearing Tophat blueberry in an enormous planting pot for several years. They, as their tall forebears, offer an amazing focal point that’s gorgeous as a shrub and loaded with luscious berries, followed by red leaves in the fall.
The highbush blueberries are prolific and beautiful, too – especially “Pink Lemondade” with tasty rose-pink berries enhancing the leafy branches, the epitome of the “edible ornamental.” More choices include Elderberry – native or as colorful cultivars, and our incomparable hardy nativcs Chokecherry and Serviceberry. All of these offer large shrub background beauty to your landscape and sustenance for a variety of creatures including great jellies (and wine) for the homeowner!
If one prefers needled trees, our native Rocky Mountain Juniper meets the small-size requirement, and with its bonus of rugged dusty-blue “berries” is a natural, often growing into a sizeable 8-10 foot tree. It’s adaptable to where it is located, so in a rugged open site, it may be charmingly twisted and windswept-looking, but straight, shapely and “piney” in a more protected situation.
For nut-lovers, the Arbor Day Foundation has been experimenting for several years on the world of benefits that can be provided from Hazelnuts. These shrubby small nut trees are now viable in our climate (Zone 4) and are available. Some facts: Hazelnuts are rich in dietary fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin B. They are loaded with antioxidants benefiting the immune system and consuming just 1.5 ounces of hazelnuts a day may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Classified as “woody agriculture” they help slow climate change by offsetting the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Too, the shells are a safe and efficient fuel. In short, they provide the “meat” of our edible ornamental fruit/veggie/ flower garden!
They are fast-growing, providing nuts within three years, and can be harvest annually for about 25 years, while providing beautiful greenery for shade and protection for birds and small animals. Check out the possibilities at arborday.org/hazelnutresearch.
Spring has finally arrived and nursery trees planted now can get a good start towards next years’ bearing – depending on the variety you choose. Time to get out to our great local and area nurseries and make your choices. Everyone wins – your landscape, your esthetic needs, your berry-eating and/or pollinating visitors and the environment itself.
Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at email@example.com. or by phone at 208-265-4688.