You’ve heard the saying, "bigger is better." Well, sometimes you need smaller, especially when it comes to native trees, some of which can grow 80’ tall and just as wide! So, what’s a person to do? You want to help nature by planting native trees, but you just don’t have the space for that majestic oak tree or a towering hickory. We've got options!
Today, we’d like to share with you just a few of the smaller native trees that are great for planting in parkways, small yards and other situations were space may be limited. Each of these trees are native to Illinois and they typically grow less than 25’ tall at maturity and have similar spread.
SERVICEBERRY Amelanchier species
Sometimes classified as a tree, sometimes a multi-stemmed shrub, sometimes both, Serviceberry is an ornamental and attractive native tree that's 20’ tall and 15’ wide at maturity. It has delicate white flowers in spring and green foliage in summer which turns orange-red in fall. It also has small fruits which birds and other wildlife enjoy. It’s also a pollinator hot spot in the spring. Medium growth rate. Prefers rich soil and sheltered sites. Does well in shade. Native to Illinois. Attractive for all seasons as a specimen tree, in mass plantings or in naturalized settings.
BLUE BEECH (AMERICAN HORNBEAM) Carpinus caroliana
This is one of the most adaptable trees. It is an ideal tree for screening or as part of a border planning. At 25’ tall x 25’ wide, Blue Beech has interesting smooth, gray, fluted bark and dark green leaves that turn red-orange or yellow in the fall. The flowers are in the form of catkins and are not highly visible. The fruit hangs in 4-6 inch clusters. The tree is highly adaptable to different soils and pH. In full sun it will grow in a formal, upright character, but if grown in shade it will have a more loose, informal shape. Native to Illinois as an understory tree in the forest, preferring dappled shade. Best in naturalized settings and adaptable to many urban conditions. Blue Beech is part of the birch family.
EASTERN REDBUD Cercis canadensis
The Eastern Redbud is a very attractive, native tree with small purple flowers that cover its branches in spring. The flower color is vibrant and bursts onto the spring landscape. The tree is 25’ tall x 25’ wide at maturity and can be single stem tree or multi-stem shrub. Medium growth rate. Adaptable to sunny or shady conditions. Some disease problems limit its longevity and if planted in poorly drained soils it's subject to verticillium wilt. Verticillium is a soil-inhabiting fungus. Redbud can have occasional dead branches as well. It’s best planted in shrub borders, in naturalized settings or as highlight plants in large beds.
PAGODA DOGWOOD Cornus alternifolia
The Pagoda Dogwoods grows 20’ tall and 20’ wide at maturity. It displays very beautiful horizontal branching and white flowers in the spring. Birds relish the blue-black fruit in August. The Pagoda likes a few hours of sun in the morning, protection from the west, and moist soil. Slow to medium growth. If planted in the right place, the Pagoda is an ideal ornamental specimen. Used in naturalized areas, borders and under utility lines. Many insects visit the flowers, including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies. Moth and butterfly caterpillars eat the foliage.
COMMON WITCHHAZEL Hamamelis virginiana
Sometimes classified as a tree, sometimes a shrub, Witch-hazel grows to be 25’ tall x 10’ wide. The yellow, fragrant flowers of the plant bloom the latest (September-December) of all the shrubs. Blooms usually continue after the leaves fall. Green leaves turn yellow in fall. Medium growth rate. Prefers fine, moist, well-drained soil. Somewhat tolerant of urban conditions. Full sun or shade. Avoid very dry sites. Native to Illinois. For naturalized locations, borders and for under utility lines. The extract witch hazel is derived from the bark and roots. In the fall, the seed capsules snap and eject the seed 5-20 feet!
You can find all these trees and more at our Oaktober! Native Tree & Shrub Sale going on now. But, don’t delay, our sale ends Sunday, October 18. Place your order online and then pick it up on Saturday, October 24, 2020 between 10a and 2p at the Sugar Creek Administration Center, 17540 W. Laraway Road, Joliet, IL 60433.
To do your research: https://www.possibilityplace.com/plant-finder
To place an order: https://www.willcountynature.org/oaktober.html
Call JULIE before you dig!
Just the right combination of native trees and shrubs can add serious curb appeal, support wildlife and add year-round interest with spring blooms, vibrant summer greens, and striking displays of fall color. We've put together a few design tips to help you get started.
Use trees and shrubs as focal plants - Think of your focal plants, or anchor plants, as the backdrop to your landscaping. You want your anchor plants to fill the space, but not overwhelm it in a few years. There are many beautiful native trees and shrubs you can choose from whether you are looking to add flowering plants, fall color, or pollinator hotspots to your foundation plantings. A great way to find plants that meet your gardening criteria is to use Possibility Place Nursery’s Plant Finder Tool.
Pay attention to scale – If you have a large home in the country or township with ample space, you have limitless possibilities when it comes to using native trees and shrubs. Generally, the larger the home and surrounding acreage, the greater the scale and size of trees and shrubs you can use. However, if you’re in a neighborhood within city or village limits, you don’t have that kind of space. Look for trees that grow to be around 20 feet tall rather than ones that will grow to be 40 or 50 feet, plus. The same is true of shrubs. Some of the larger native shrubs grow to be over 15 feet tall and equally as wide! If you have a smaller house and yard, think smaller, more compact. Select shrubs that are in the 3 to 7 foot range with similar spread.
Pick carefully – Regardless of the size of your yard, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is selecting a tree or shrub that will outgrow its space once it matures. Do some research ahead of time and pay close attention to the mature size of the tree or shrub especially when you are using them in your foundation plantings. You don’t want to plant something that will eventually grow to block windows, overwhelm paths, or crowd your entryway. Do your research using Possibility Place Nursery's Plant Finder Tool.
Think in layers – Once you’ve selected your focal plants, you can add other native plants in layers. When designing a foundation planting, it’s important to layer the heights of the plants. You want the tallest ones (your anchor plants) in back next to the house, and then layer each row down so that the shortest plants are in the front. The smaller plants in front can be a selection of native perennials that attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. We'll be hosting our Bringing Nature Home Native Plant Sale again in the spring and you'll be able to select from over 100 native plants to compliment your foundation plantings and provide critical habitat for our pollinators.
Enhance what you have - If you don't have any native plants right now, don't worry. One of the best ways to begin using native plants is to slowly transition them into your existing gardens or foundation plantings. Add a few things each year and see what works best for your growing situation. You don't have to get rid of everything just because its not native and many gardeners that use native plants still keep some of their favorite hybrids.
A few other tips –
Possibility Place Nursery Plant Finder Tool
National Wildlife Federation Native Plant Finder
The Nature Foundation of Will County
17540 W. Laraway Rd.
Joliet, IL 60433
Preserve the moment
Willy's Wilderness is a nature web site for kids (and their parents) developed by the Forest Preserve District of Will County and funded by donations to The Nature Foundation of Will County. The web site features fun topics for kids, crafts, jokes, books, and so much more!