Surefire investments in some standout varieties
When choosing a tree, it’s important to make sure it is a four-season performer. And a tree should be largely pest- and disease-free and not require tons of pruning. Here are some recommendations for a few trees that you will never regret planting. Whatever you choose, it will be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
Name: Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia), Zones: 5 to 8
Japanese stewartia is known for its camellia-like flowers in late spring and early summer. The white blooms have a bright orange center and open sporadically over a two- to three-week period.
Name: ‘Wolf Eyes’ kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’), Zones: 5 to 8
One look at this small tree and you’ll understand why it got its name. Its showy white flowers cover the tree in late spring; with their bright green centers, they almost appear to be staring back at you. Some trees will bloom for several weeks, extending into late summer. ‘Wolf Eyes’ is upright and vase-shaped as a young tree—some say it is rather stiff looking. But with age, it develops into a broad, spreading tree with a horizontal branching habit. These trees are happiest in partial to full shade and moist, well-drained soil. After several years, ‘Wolf Eyes’ kousa dogwood develops a beautiful, well-defined, exfoliating bark of grays, tans, and rich brown tones. The bark patterns are more evident when the trunk is wet. Its fall leaf colors range from orange to mahogany. Large raspberry-shaped fruit appear in late summer and are a great food source for birds but are also edible to humans.
Name: Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica), Zones: 5 to 8
Persian ironwood is a deciduous tree with a distinctive spreading habit, similar to witch hazel (Hamamelis spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9). Most of these trees have a single, relatively short trunk that forks near the ground, and a rounded crown composed of wide, arching—or even drooping—branches. Persian ironwood’s best trait is its brilliant autumn foliage, which can include yellows, reds, and oranges; it reminds me of a parrot’s feathers. The exfoliating bark peels and flakes, creating a mottled patchwork of green, beige, white, and gray blotches. Unlike other trees that rely on just their bark for winter interest, this tree flowers in late winter, producing a plethora of small spiderlike, ruby red flowers. Persian ironwood is a slow-growing tree that is virtually free of pests and diseases and tolerates acidic to alkaline soils. It is also tolerant of drought, wind, urban air pollution, and soil compaction. The best fall color is produced on plants growing in acidic soil in full sun.