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Trees 101: Choosing the Right Tree for your Yard

I’ve always dreamt of having a yard fully of trees and shrubs. They provide so much for the home like privacy, food, memories… One of my favourite things to do in the summer is to grab an afternoon nap with the windows open with the sound of leaves softly rustling in the breeze just outside. Sounds like absolute heaven doesn’t it?

Buying a tree can be a tough decision. You’re adopting a long-term commitment for your yard. You have to make sure it’s going to like the amount of sun your area receives. Is it hardy enough for our climate? Do I even like how it looks?

Well, this week, I sat down with the lovely Barb Evans, our trees and shrubs experts for some suggestions!

Q: “What is the best trees for small yards?”

I really like the Birch tree for small yards. We actually carry a couple really nice columnar style varieties. The Dakota Pinnacle has smooth white bark and is quite hardy for our weather. There’s also the Parkland Pillar which also has smooth white bark and is perfect as an accent tree and even privacy in the warm months. There’s also the Toba Hawthorn which is quite neat. It’s got a skinny trunk, and gorgeous canopy of dark green leaves and double pink flowers in the spring that turn to white. And I’d also consider the Pyramidal Mountain Ash which is another narrow columnar accent tree. It showcases smooth olive green bark and clusters of white flowers that turn to red berries. You also get amazing colour in the autumn.

  Q: “What kind of shrub can I grow in the shade?”

Dogwood! I absolutely love Dogwood! They look beautiful in any season with gorgeous foliage and blooms in the spring and summer, and has these popping red branches in winter that offset the snow. We carry lots of variety as well. There’s Siberian that blooms with white flowers and eventually blue berries for the birds in your yard. They’ll also attract butterflies, and again that beautiful red colour in the winter. Isanti Dogwood will give you dark green foliage with white berries. For even darker foliage, I like the Kesselringi Dogwood. It’s dark purple with white blooms and blue berries. Dogwood even come variegated. We carry the Ivory Halo and Golden which show off a more interesting foliage during the warmer months. If you’re not sold on the Dogwood, you can also do the Viburnum (Vy-burn-um), or Cranberry, which varies quite a bit. The American Wentworth Cranberry that has nice big leaves with clusters of white flowers, and you can make jelly out of the fruit! It also showcases gorgeous autumn colour. The Snowball Cranberry almost looks like a Hydrangea with big poofy white flowers, and the dark green leaves turn deep purple in the autumn. You could also go with the Bailey Compact Cranberry is a nice dense shrub for small spaces. It gives you bright red berries and that desirable autumn colour.

  Q: “What kind of fruit trees or shrubs can I grow on the Calgary area?”

You’d be surprised how many kinds of fruit bearing options there are for Calgary. Apples and crabapples are always quite popular. The Parkland Apple is a great option, as is the Gladiator Crabapple which also displays these beautiful fragrant pink flowers before they fruit.  but you can also grow pears, like Early Gold or Ure Pear, as well as sour cherries. The Evans Cherry is hardy in the prairies, and is self pollinating. They’re also excellent in pies, jams, and jellies. Venturing into shrubs, there’s the Saskatoon Berry. We carry lots of varieties like Honeywood, Smoky, Thiessen, Regent, and Northline, all of which provide juicy fruit and beautiful foliage especially in the autumn. They also attract butterflies! You could also go with a Honeyberry which is kind of like a blueberry, but larger. There’s also raspberries, and a really good one is the Boyne Raspberry. Delicious, perfect for the prairies, and is excellent in jams and freezing. You can also get the Double Delight Raspberry, Heritage, or get crazy and go for the Fallgold Raspberry which is actually gold in colour and has the ability to produce two crops per season. You can also venture into currents and gooseberries!

  Q: “What trees give the best shade?”

Sitting until the shade of a tree is something I’m really looking forward to this year. I have an ornamental crabapple, and it’s so nice especially with the fresh floral scent. Yum. We carry a few kinds like the Purple Spire Crabapple which is also an upright columnar tree. It has purple foliage, and fragrant pink flowers. You could cross shade and food off your list with a  Pear tree like the Early Gold.  Birch trees are also quite nice. We already talked about the Parkland Pillar and the Dakota Pinnacle. Did you know they even come in the weeping variety? I’d also like the mention the Mayday Tree which shows off a huge spreading canopy. You get treated to white flowers followed by tiny black berries.

Q: “What trees can I use for Privacy?”

I always liked the Swedish Columnar Aspens for privacy. They do great in our climate, are drought tolerant, have showcase really nice autumn colours. They also sound really nice in the wind. You could also go with a Columnar Spruce which is an evergreen and can provide nice privacy all year round. It’s a nice silvery blue colour and deer resistant. Both of these options grow tall and thin so perfect if you need to achieve height as well.

  Q: “What is the best flowering shrubs?”

My top 3 are definitely Potentilla, Spirea, and Hydrangea. All three quite different but can add so much colour to your space. We carry the Pink Beauty Potentilla that is covered in blooms throughout the warm months. You can also do the vigorous growing Goldfinger Potentilla that showcases big yellow blooms right through toward frost. You can also get white blooms in the Abbotswood Potentilla that again, is quite fast growing. Moving into the Spirea family, one of the more common varieties you’ll find are the Magic Carpet Spirea, which is a nice compact shrub with foliage that changes with the seasons, and little pink flowers in clusters. There’s also the Goldflame Spirea, which has changing leaf colours throughout the year and contrasting pink flowers. I can also recommend the Little Princess Spirea which has a slightly different leaf colour than the rest. It’s leaves develop into a coppery bronze colour in the autumn and display a soft pink bloom in the spring. Finally, the Hydrangea. These flowers are true showstoppers. For example, the Incrediball Hyndrangea has big sturdy stems to hold the giant white flower ball on the end. As the season progresses, the white blooms transition to green. Hydrangea come in all sorts of colours. The Little lime Hydrangea is, as you can guess, a lime colour. They do transition into a more pinky colour in the fall. Another one is the Quick Fire Hydrangea, which is known for it’s seasonal colour transitions from white, to pink, to dark rose pink. Fantastic for cut flowers to bring into your home.

Q: “What are the best roses to grow in this area?”

There are so many options, but two of my favourites are the Winnipeg Parks Rose or any from the Morden series like

The Winnipeg Parks Rose is one hardy perennial. It was actually discovered in Winnipeg! The flower is this beautiful bright red colour that’ll bloom right through the fall. In the Morden Rose series, there’s a wide variety like the Morden Sunrise which actually looks like a sunrise. The Morden Amorette has this beautiful red/pink colour and will continuously bloom until frost. If you don’t want to go pink or red, we also carry the Morden Snowbeauty which is this pure white colour. And all of these are great for cuttings that you can bring into the house! But one of my all time favourite Morden is the Blush Rose. It’s got this soft pink colour with a hint of ivory. It’s quite sweet and has a soft fragrance.

A big thank you to Barb for her wisdom this week!

Next week: Annual Flower: Instant Colour for your Yard

Happy gardening!

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