Today let's talk about trees. Not just any trees, but the smaller deciduous ones that have flowers and maybe even some colorful fruit and leaves that have interesting fall color.
I like to refer to these trees as specimen trees as they add accents to the landscape and can often provide a view block. These trees generally get no taller than 20 feet with a spread of 15 to 20 feet. They can often fit beneath power lines and not crowd walks, driveways, and patios. They also do not visually overpower homes.
There are many choices but here are some of my favorites.
• Crabapples: There are many desirable varieties of these trees, with flowers ranging from white to pink to red; announcing the coming of spring. Fall foliage may be yellow, gold, red, maroon, purple, orange or bronze; depending on the variety. The apples that follow flowering can be persistent into the winter, adding additional color to the landscape. Try to pick varieties with smallish apples, about quarter size, to reduce codling moth problems and messes. These trees are grafted and will sucker at their trunk base, requiring their removal one or more times a year. Fire blight could be a problem too. Two of my favorites are Prairefire and Spring Snow.
• Hawthorns: These trees are quite popular in the landscape, often seen in parking lot medians and other areas around commercial buildings. Spring flowers range from white to pink to red. These trees also produce fruit which is generally smaller than most crabapples and come in some shade of red. Fall leaf color ranges from yellow to orange to scarlet to purplish. Russian and Washington varieties are popular but my favorite in Winter King. Apparently landscape companies like these too. Many varieties of hawthorns do have thorns.
• Ornamental pears: There are many varieties spanning different heights and spreads. Chantilcleer is one of my favorites. They generally have white spring flowers, inconspicuous fruit, and orange to red to purple fall leaf color.
• Tatarian "Hot Wings" Maple: Wow! Is this tree ever gorgeous. Its scarlet red winged seed, known as samaras, appear every summer for about six weeks, contrasting with the rich green foliage giving it an appearance of being in bloom. Christmas in July! These maples have nice fall colors ranging from yellow to orange-red.
• Goldenrain Tree: This is a larger tree, averaging 30 feet in height with a spread of 30 feet. Flowers appear later, in June and July. Flowers are large, showy, stalked clusters of small yellow flowers; the falling flowers, which can form a carpet under the tree, inspired its common name. The flowers yield fruit that looks like little three-sided, papery bladder-like Chinese lanterns; starting out green, then turning pinkish, later turning to light yellow and then brown in color. Fall leaf color ranges from yellow to orange.
So there you have it. Some of the several smallish specimen trees that often provide year-round interest. Minimal shade though. Maybe one of these will fit the bill for your landscape.
Jim Leser retired to Cedaredge in 2007 after a career with Texas A&M University Extension in entomology. He is a member of the Cedaredge Tree Board and a Colorado Master Gardener.