Now look at the same tree, with me posing under it. I don't usually post pictures with me in them, it's about the plants, just the plants, after all. But this is one where I need to show the scale of this mature corneliancherry.
It's a dogwood tree, but an unusual one that blooms in earliest spring with a haze of yellow flowers. These photos were taken in mid May.
Like a lot of small trees, it can be multi stemmed and shrubby. The one I am standing under at the Berkshire Botanical Garden has multiple trunks but it has been pruned over many years to limb it up and to make it tree shaped.
It is over 20 feet tall, and I am dwarfed under it. That's small by forest standards, but when you think of an ornamental tree for a small yard, few people really picture something 20 to 25 feet tall.
Last year a friend asked for recommendations to replace an old pee gee hydrangea that had died. It had been in her tiny city front yard, directly in front of the house. I suggested another hydrangea or some other pretty shrubs.
No, no, she said, I definitely want a tree there this time. A small tree. Some shade, some height, a trunk form.
But every tree I suggested, including a Cornus mas, was met with rejection. Too big! Not 20 feet tall. That will swamp the house.
After going back and forth with suggestions, it finally became clear that a small tree to her would be something that grew to about 8 or 10 feet tall.
Well, that's just not a tree, really.
There are small Japanese maples that will top out at 10 or 12 feet, and many can be pruned artfully to look smaller. You can get dwarf oddities of big trees, like witch's brooms of a ginkgo tree. I had one, called Spring Grove, but it looked like a shrub.
In the end she decided to plant nothing. Her small yard is now a sunny open spot, and that suits.
It's a challenge to find a small, elegant tree when you want something 10 feet tall. That's why standards of willows are so popular and you see them everywhere. They look like tiny little trees, and can be kept to 8 feet.
|from Miller Nursery|
I suffer from the same conflict - I want small trees to be much littler than they will eventually be. Here is my own Cornus mas, which is some day going to fill that whole space between the birch and the pine. Think of the pictures at the top of this post and then imagine that planted here.
There will be room enough, I think.
I'm turning a shrubby viburnum into a small tree. This is Viburnum prunifolium, or blackhaw. I'm removing all the suckers and the lower branches to get a small tree form. This is a good example of "small tree" delusions -- as a shrub form it will grow to about 12 or 15 feet high, a perfect size. Pruned to a tree form it can reach 20 or 30 feet tall.
I think I have room for a 20 foot tree here, but that certainly is not what most of us think of as a small tree. (note that this pretty viburnum is blooming, in May, but only at the bottom. Frost nipped the upper branches earlier in the spring.)
I am doing the same thing with another Viburnum prunifolium planted at the side of the house, which is being pruned into a single trunk.
Here I may have a problem with a 20 foot tree so near the house. (note to Heather at Girl with a Hammer -- or to anyone else -- how would you hide those A/C units?)
We ask so much of our landscape plants. We want height to provide shade but a low profile to fit the space. We want flowers and fruit but no mess. We want density to screen things (like A/C units), but openness for air circulation or a view.
So keep one thing in mind as you design your spaces for all those conflicting landscape needs: a small tree is not as small as you think it is!