A Bit Of Shade
Shade from a tree helps cool the house in summer, offering a cool respite on a hote day, but not every property has room for a stately elm or spreading oak. Where space is limited by the size of the property or other obstacles, seek out a tree that suits the space – perhaps one that grows up more than out or, in contrast, a tree that is wider than tall. Here are a few examples.
Round tree canopies throw an even shade – watch the circle throughout the day as it moves across the grass or patio – and suit a garden with as much vertical space as horizontal. The hedge maple (Acer campestre) grows about 30 feet high and wide; think of it as a large lollipop in sky. Its five-lobed leaves turn a warm yellow in autumn. Hedge maples, as the name suggests, make fine hedges and can be clipped into shapes.
Fragrant flower alert! The Amur cherry (Prunus maackii), sometimes called the Manchurian cherry, blooms in spring with perfumed white flowers. Flowers are followed by dark fruit that ripens in late summer – you can harvest the fruit for jam. This round tree grows to about 30 feet high and wide and looks lovely even in winter, when you get a clear view of the peeling brown bark.
Copious amounts of fragrant white flowers – looking as if they were shredded with scissors – cover the North American native fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) in spring. Both male and female plants are needed to set fruit, but even without the 20-by-20 feet small tree is a winner. The fringe tree can also be a large round shrub, with branches to the ground – it’s the gardener’s choice.
Even upright trees cast enough shade for a small bistro table or your own personal Adirondack chair. The serviceberry Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’ is indeed brilliant for three seasons out of four. In spring, it bursts with clusters of white, star-shaped flowers; these are followed close on by dark blue fruit that offer the chickadees a June repast. In autumn, the leaves warm up to shades of fiery red. All this in a tree that reaches 25 feet high and about 15 feet wide – a great choice for a narrow spot.
Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa var. chinensis) not only gives you shade, but does it in style. ‘Milky Way’, at about 20 feet high and 15 feet wide, covers itself in white flowers in May and June, followed by lumpy red fruit that will attract birds. Great fall color brightens the autumn sky.
Crab apples have acquired an undeserved bad reputation as disease-ridden trees that begin the year well but lose all their leaves by August. But the right crab apple – those resistant to leaf blight and more – add spring flower and autumn fruit, plus provide shade in small gardens. Choose ‘Adirondack’, a vase-shaped tree to about 18 feet high and 12 feet wide; its red buds burst into white flowers and the fruit looks like red olives stuck all over the branches.
There’s a crab apple for gardens with more horizontal space, too. ‘Cardinal’ grows wider than tall, as does ‘Strawberry Parfait’.
The Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica) spreads its branches to 25 feet, the better to display its amazing spring growth of shiny green leaves tinted red and its shocking fall color of orange, scarlet and apricot. It’s a member of the witch hazel family, and in winter you can see the telltale family characteristic in the slight zigzag of its branches.
Whether that bit of shade is for the small corner of a large garden or the entire garden itself.
Marty Wingate is a regular contributor to Country Gardens and leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France and North America. She’s the author of THE GARDEN PLOT: An Alibi Mystery, on sale now. Find more gardening tips from Marty on Romance at Random here or visit her website.