Negotiations Reach a Critical Phase

So remember how in my last post I wrote about how I’d like to replace the Bridalwreath in the front yard? Well, Judy has agreed! This is important, because Judy doesn’t like change. But now we have to agree on what to replace it with.

My first preference is a serviceberry (Amelanchier). Judy doesn’t like serviceberries (I think she just doesn’t like the name), and she doesn’t like shrubs in general. She could be happy with something if it could be classified as a small tree, but not a shrub. Why? Pursuing that question is entirely unproductive.

We both like crabapples (Malus), but I wouldn’t want to plant a full size crabapple that close to the house. There’s a dwarf crabapple recommended by the Chicago Botanic Garden called ‘Red Jade’, but the habit shown in the picture wasn’t that appealing to either of us. Maybe if we could find a multi-stem ‘Red Jade’…  Judy likes multi-stem trees, though she doesn’t like shrubs. Why? Do not try to pursue that discussion.

Crabapple 'Red Jade'
Malus ‘Red Jade’ Photo: Missouri Botanic Garden

Also, I worry about planting a crab in a spot with less than full sun, and I’ve been hearing warnings in class about how crabapples always come down with scab and other nasty conditions. I have a ‘Donald Wyman’, though, that’s been disease-free so far.

I’ve offered an American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) as a possibility. Small tree, takes shade, interesting catkins and fruit, and good fall color. If we can find one that is multi-stem, we could be close to a deal.

American Hornbeam.
Photo: Missouri Botanic Garden

So do you have an opinion? Should we look at another crabapple? Is there another species we should consider? All input appreciated!

34 Comments on “Negotiations Reach a Critical Phase”

  1. I have an Amelanchier, it is quite slow growing, lovely spring flowers and autumn foliage. Or you could consider Prunus Koji-no-mai which is a small slow growing cherry, has wonderful flowers and autumn leaves and an interesting slightly wonky branch structure. I have one and it is gorgeous, really recommend

  2. A tree/shrub I really like for smaller spaces is crape myrtle. There are both gorgeous vase-shaped upright forms and tree forms available out there. The trees look rather lollypop-like when younger, but mature into nicely shaped canopies. Some have beautiful bark and there is a wealth of bloom color to choose from. The only question is whether they’re hardy for you out there….

  3. The Serviceberry (aka Juneberry) can get 15-20 feet high, unless girdled by a rabbit (ask me how I know!) so I don’t think of them as shrubs. I have an asplenifolia in my front yard – I trimmed the lower branches so while it is multi-stemmed, it is quite tidy; the bark is interesting as is the foliage, and birds like the fruit. I am also partial to American redbuds, which can be multi-stemmed; pretty flowers in the spring and heart-shaped leaves – what’s not to love?

  4. I’ll take a chance and suggest something different, how about an American Beech? It’s the most shade tolerant of the hardwood species, naturally growing in the forest as an understory tree. I think it’s so underused in the landscape, beautiful foliage, interesting bark, fall color, and nuts. Yes it gets big but it’s quite slow growing.

    Another one I haven’t seen mentioned is Vitex, or Chaste tree, but I don’t know if it’s hardy there. They’re shrubby but can be trained as small trees easily and are extremely attractive to bees and butterflies.

    The newer cultivars of Malus are quite disease resistant, if your spot has good air circulation or gets morning sun (fruit tree basics), you might be able to reconsider one. Good luck with your decision!

  5. I don’t really know what you should plant Jason, but I enjoyed reading the post, got several chuckles, loved the picture. I have a crab apple in a lot of shade and it’s doing OK, never got anything wrong with it (not superstitious but crossing fingers just in case …). Don’t know what service berries look like but agree with Judy, terrible name.

  6. What about a viburnum? Many are multi-trunked and can easily be limbed up into a small tree. Rob at The British Gardener ( just did a post on viburnums. They are native, very easy to grow, and cold hardy. Plus, many have beautiful fall foliage and berries for the birds. I have a viburnum trilobum thriving in partial shade.

  7. I’m slightly obsessed with trees so here’s a list of a few ideas to consider. These are all classified as ‘small’ trees, but check sizes to see if they make sense in your location :
    Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick – a shrub but very very cool
    Chionanthus virginicus – Fringe Tree (I want one)
    Golden Chain Tree – Laburnum (lovely golden flowers)
    Hawthorne – Paul’s Scarlet or Crimson Cloud (some disease issues in certain places but very very pretty)
    Stewartia pseudocamellia – great bark and flowers
    Amur maple – fantastic colour

  8. If you’d like a crabapple, you might want to consider a sargent or Tina crabapple. They’re usually multi-stemmed. Tina gets 5-6′ high and wide, sargent is 6-8′ tall and 8-12′ wide. I have a chionanthus that is struggling and an American hornbeam that is finally settling in after 5 years, which I hear is typical. Golden chain tree is lovely but requires a sheltered spot here. Ditto for Stewartia. The CBG has an Amur maple which is very lovely. Good luck with your search!

  9. How about a Magnolia Stellata, that might tick a lot of boxes – although it is very different from what you had. I can see why there was resistance taking out the Bridalwreath, we have a large one in the back and it’s rather mundane for most of the year apart from a few weeks in Spring when it spectacularly erupts into a explosion of white flowers, thousands and thousands of them. I would be very reluctant to part from mine.

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