Besides the trees described below, contemplate Acer palmatum, Acer circinatum, Cercis canadensis, and appropriate Cornus species, all discussed in the Plant Selection Guide section as small trees ideal for use beneath a canopy of tall trees. In milder climates all will grow in full sun.
Chionanthus virginicus (Fringe Tree; Hardy to Zone 5) is deciduous, with a slow growth rate to 20 to 30 feet. Open form, bold leaves and its large throw medium shade. Leaves turn golden in fall, and seem quite late in spring. The masses of small, fragrant, white blossoms that appear in late spring are one of the most exquisite blooms of any plant that is woodland. Dark blue berries ap¬pear in autumn. Unless pruned to single trunk fringe tree will stay shrubby and multitrunked.
Cladrastis lutea (Yellowwood; Hardy to Zone 4) is deciduous, with a slow growth rate to 30 to 35 feet. Its upright branches create a vase shape. The large leaves, broken up into leaflets, turn yellow in fall. The compact foliage makes medium color. Exquisite, intensely aromatic wisterialike blossoms cover the mature tree in June, and the branches and pods are attractive in winter. This can be a tough tree, one which will resist drought, extremes of temperature, and wet or alkaline soils.
Of the many hawthorns, that is perhaps the most beautiful because of its masses of dou¬ ble rose red flowers in late May, followed by sprinkling of 1/2- inch scarlet berries in autumn. The lobed, dense leaf makes medium shade. A spread, crown that is roundish is formed by the tree. It really is susceptible to fireblight; check with the local nursery to find out whether another hawthorn is suited to your area.
The tree forms an upright, pyramid that is open. Its lustrous leaves grow to 6 inches long, loose and open, and throw light to moderate shade. The eye-catching 3-inch flowers, which resemble single white camellias or roses, appear in autumn, often as the foliage turns brilliant orange red. This tree prefers some shade in hottest areas. It’s perfect for the woodland garden, beneath a canopy of taller trees.
Koelreuteria paniculata (Goldenrain Tree; Hardy to Zone 6) is deciduous, with a moderate to rapid increase to 30 feet. This tree is rounded when youthful, flat-topped at maturity. The open branches and bold-textured, compound leaves cast medium shade. Big clusters of bright yellow flowers cover the tree in midsummer or early, followed by fruits like Chinese lanterns, which stay through fall. It’s tolerant of most conditions that are unfavorable.
This upright, vase-shaped tree should be pruned to a single trunk. It makes light to medium shade, and in climates that are hot chooses to grow in a little shade. In May, 18-inch pendant clusters of yellow that is buttery, blossoms that are wisterialike appear. All parts are poisonous to eat but never to touch.
There’s a great deal of variation in habit, flower color, and size among the many varieties, but the species is open and spreading. It can be pruned early as just one-trunked tree, or allowed to spread wide as a multitrunked tree. The leaves are fairly dense, 8 inches long, and make medium shade. The large (5 to 10 inches), stunning, cup shaped flowers appear before the leaves, even during winter in mildest areas. The species has white to rosy-red blooms, while varieties have white, purple, pink, or delicately tinted blooms. The tree blooms while still fairly youthful. If you reside in a place of late frost, inquire at the local nursery about late-blooming varieties.
It has a medium to fast growth rate. Its propagating, gracefully arching growth casts moderate shade. Masses of rosy buds open into pinkish flowers that fade to white. Ornamental reddish yellow 3/8-inch fruit appears in late summer, produced dependably if there’s been some winter cooling; the fruit attracts birds.
It becomes rounded, with dainty, shiny leaves and gracefully pendulous branchless. It casts light to moderate shade. Fruit and blossoms are tiny and inconspicuous. This really is one of the choicest little evergreen trees for light-winter areas.