Native Trees For The Garden

Native trees (and plants in general) are treasured not only for their beauty but also for their easy care and hardiness. They’ve adapted to the environment and are able to tolerate even the harshest of conditions. The following trees provide the garden with spring flowers, colorful fall foliage and interesting winter silhouettes.

Eastern Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are treasured for their stunning pink and lavender flowers which bloom on bare stems in early spring. It develops ornamental fruit later in the season.  Eastern redbuds grow to be 20′-30′ high and spread 20′-30′ and are a great alternative to other small ornamentals such as cherries or crabapples.

River Birch (Betula nigra) is valued for its attractive bark and interesting, finely-branched silhouette It makes a wonderful winter landscape planting, especially against a backdrop of dark green evergreens. Easy to grow, the river birch is tolerant a wild range of soil conditions. Planted in a group, the river birch could create a interesting interlacing of delicate branches. On its own, its silhouette is dramatic against a stand of evergreens or the sky.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.) is an another great small ornamental tree. It blooms in spring with a an abundance of white flowers. Serviceberries naturally grow beneath larger trees in the temperate forest so they’re ideal for the woodland garden or for areas beneath the canopy large shade trees. In fall, their leaves turn vibrant yellow, red or orange. They also form attractive blue berries, which attract birds.

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is the tallest hardwood tree in eastern North America, reaching up to 200 feet in height. Both the lustrous green leaves and large greenish-yellow flowers are tulip-shaped. Its attractive foliage turns yellow in the fall. An ideal specimen shade tree for the lawn. The tree grows in deep, rich, and moist soil.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is spring blooming tree with red, pink or white flowers. It’s is a small tree with a mature height of 15 to 30 feet. A great year-round plant for the garden, the flowering dogwood has beautiful bronze colored fall foliage as well as red fruit which lasts into winter. It also has an interesting winter silhouette with its horizontal branching structure. The flowering dogwood is one of the best flowering trees available. Be aware, however, that in recent years, flowering dogwoods have been subject to dogwood blight, a fungus disease. Plenty of air circulation and sunlight help prevent this disease.

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), is prized for its strength and brilliant fall color. Northern Red Oak trees are used as a specimen tree and also for wildlife. The form of this tree is rounded and its branches tend to branch low to the ground. Fall colors are from yellow-brown to russet-red and bright red. New leaves have a reddish tinge in the spring. Does best in well-drained soils. A very widely planted tree. 60’ is the expected mature height.

Pin Oaks (Quercus palustris), are widely used for home landscaping. One of the faster growing oaks, it can grow 12 to 15’ over a 5 to 7 year period. The pin oak is easy to grow and tolerant of a wide range of soil types. It has pyramidal, dense, pendulous lower branches when mature. Young trees and lower branches of older trees hold leaves throughout winter.

White Oak (Quercus alba), is a tall (up to 100‘), stately, long-lived tree that requires very little maintenance. It needs lots of room to grow so it’s an ideal shade tree for large lawns and open spaces. The white oak’s foliage turns reddish-brown in fall. It is an excellent wildlife source of food mass in the form of acorns. Pyramidal in shape early on, the white oak develops broad crown with age. The white oak inspired the phrase “The Mighty Oak”.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum), is a smaller maple species growing to between 40-60′ tall. As the name suggests, the color red appears in its flowers in dense clusters in late March to early April, its stems and twigs and its buds. In the fall its foliage turns a vibrant orange-red. Red maple trees are widely planteed in home gardens and as street trees.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharin), is a classic ornamental shade tree and is the reason many people travel to New England in fall. This showy tree is upright and oval in shape, shade tolerant and grows to about 100’. The sugar maple is treasured for its outstanding orange fall color. It’s is widely used as a specimen tree or shade tree in a large lawn.

White Pine (Pinus strobus) is an excellent ornamental conifer. Its form is somewhat pyramidal when young and becomes broad with age. The 3­5″ long needles found in bundles of five are thin and soft. Needle color varies from plant to plant and ranges from yellow green to blue green. Eastern White Pine is native in the lake states and eastward.

Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana), also known as musclewood and American hornbeam, is a common understory tree in mixed forests throughout eastern North America. It’s a wonderful native tree with beautiful yellow, orange and red fall foliage. For the home landscape the ironwood is ideal for the woodland garden. Easy to grow, it tolerates both sun and shade. The bark of the ironwood tree is gray with sinewy, muscle-like ripples. Its attractive silhouette provides winter interest in the garden.

Related Articles: Small Trees, Garden Design, Selecting Trees, Spring Flowering Trees