I asked Joseph Panossian, Homestead’s tree and shrub manager, to point out some smaller native trees that would fit nicely into urban and suburban gardens – because how many of us have room for another oak or two? – and here are his recommendations.
The River Birch (Betula nigra) is one of those plants I wish I’d thought to include in my garden before I filled it up with other plants – because of its traffic-stopping bark. The bark doesn’t just flake off (exfoliate), but it does it in a rainbow of colors, like cinnamon, peach and brown.
Other fine attributes include its resistance to wind, ice and heat, surprisingly good drought-tolerance (considering its name), and fast rate of growth. River birches are happiest when protected from the hot afternoon sun.
The Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is surely the best known small tree in our area, so I don’t have to describe it for anyone. But there is really good news about dogwoods – that after years of losing them to the anthractnose disease, that epidemic seems to be on the wane, according to a recent article by garden and science writer Constance Casey in Landscape Architecture Magazine. Excellent! It’s still a good idea to follow the sensible suggestions offered here to preventing the disease – like giving dogwoods adequate sun and water.
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is very similar to the dogwood in size – usually 20-25 feet tall and slightly wider. What sets it apart is that it flowers in late spring before the leaves emerge, which gives it a very distinctive look. Also distinctive is the rich pink-purple color of those blooms – gorgeous.