New home - need advice on some smaller flowering trees

Karolina11(6b Central PA)May 26, 2013

Hello everyone!
Completely new at this forum - I am usually a perennials and roses type of gal. However, our bid on a new house on three acres just got accepted so I am in need of a game plan. Currently I am used to gardening on a quarter of an acre occupied by two norway maples and two cherry trees. My new home, if everything goes well, is also in central Pennsylvania and zone 6b but instead of clay I will have something called chenango gravelly loam. From what I can read I should have no drainage issues and it should be quite fertile as it is the type of soil that our corn fields a few blocks away grown in. I will be doing a soil test once we move in mid-July but this soil should be acidic in nature.

I have never ever planted a tree and there is quite a lot to take in and I am doing that currently. Once we move in, I will obviously prepare the beds and I understand trees are best planted in the fall/spring like most plants. If I choose to plant in the fall, am I talking when it gets colder like September or when everything loses its leaves like November? I would prefer to plant in fall in case we have another spring like the one we currently had - ground was too hard to dig in until almost May and then temperatures were hot! However I need some guidance there.

Second, I need some tips on selecting trees. I have included the below aerial view of the property. As you can see, it is currently surrounded by large evergreens of some sort which means I would be planting trees in the middle. My main purpose in planting trees is to get some shade to be able to plant some of my favorite shade perennials as currently most of the lot is pure afternoon sun. Secondary, I love the look of flowering trees.

Thus if anyone can comment on the below list of trees with a yay/nay for the above described zone/soil combination. I need to pick just a few so need to narrow the list. I also would love specific cultivar suggestions - I love distinct leaf color and I understand some of these trees can be quite large so any smaller cultivars I should look for would be greatly appreciated.

Here is the current list -
Almond tree
Fringe tree
Magnolia Tree
Flowering dogwood
Golden Chain Tree
Carolina silverbell
Japanese Maple
Purpurea Tricolor Beech
Dwarf ginko (this one is for its leaves)

Also, is there a red leaved smaller flowering cherry?

I have searched through the forum for some of these but any helpful links would also be greatly appreciated.

Thank you tons for all of your help! If anyone here frequents the conifer forum, expect a similar post there as that is another area my knowledge is lacking in.

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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Here is my $.02 on the ones I know.

Magnolia Tree - May grow like you want in your area. In St Louis Southern Magnolia are mostly small trees. There are cultivars out there that should stay small even in the south if Magnolia grandiflora gets too big in your area.

Redbud - Yup. There is a purple leafed cultivar also. Each one I see has a unique structure I enjoy..

Flowering dogwood - Cornus kousa is the popular choice over the native Cornus florida. The import is more resistant to our native diseases. In general I can think of nothing better for a long flowering season and long duration of fall color.

Japanese Maple - There are a billion varieties. Just don't pick a cultivar all your neighbors have and plant it in the same location on your property they have theirs lol. Most prefer some shade and grow slowly for a tree. I find them a dainty bunch but own several. Check out Acer griseum at the link I provided. It is different enough.

Serviceberry - I like. Many are bushy. I planted an Amelenchier lamarckii, Lamarcki Serviceberry. It is supposed to be more of a true tree. Its in most sun and took transplant well.

Purpurea Tricolor Beech - Dainty but a GREAT spring and early summer show. People WILL notice. In my zone 6 the leaves get crisp by July, even at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Give it a try knowing this. I think placing one in an informal row of trees could let it stand out early on and then blend in later.

Dwarf ginko (this one is for its leaves) - Classy. I don't know the cultivars well but get a male one.

The crab apples have a billion cultivars as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: .edu tree website. They do not sell plants.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 1:50AM
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In addition to the Paperbark Maple, which was already mentioned (Acer griseum), other peeling bark modest-sized trees include Trident Maple and Stewartia (with Korean having a rep. for being more drought-tolerant than some).

Ornate foliage & bark often last longer than flowers.

Some maple trees have dense, fibrous root systems that other plants beneath don't compete with well, but silver and red maple seem to be the big culprits. I don't know how, oh, say, planting hostas under Japanese, Paperbark or Trident Maples would work, or under a Korean Stewartia.

I had a Forest Pansy Redbud where we used to live, that had burgundy foliage in spring but it greened up for summer.

I'm trying a purple-leafed European Smoketree in our yard, at the end of a small planting bed with a clump of River Birch as a backdrop (the advisability of planting a clump of River Birch is another story; this one came with the house), and it's a nice effect so far.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 3:25PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

With Japanese maples I would be more concerned about the hostas killing the trees lol. Maybe if one lives fifty years it could be difficult to garden right under.

Paperbark maple, I dunno. Grass still grown right uo to the trunk of my five footer and if I recall at MOBOT they seem polite enough.

These are not the red, sugar and silver maples of North American forests by any means though.

Richard, how were the flowers on your Forest Pansy? If I did not own an abundance of redbuds and other purple tinged trees I would plant one.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 10:07PM
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ttonk(OH 6A)

I know a purple leaf cherry:Prunus x cistena (sand cherry)

This post was edited by ttonk on Tue, May 28, 13 at 2:46

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 2:44AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Re Magnolias--there are dozens of gorgeous deciduous magnolias ranging from M. stellata cultivars that bloom very, very early to M. virginiana, just coming into bloom now--and in colors from white to deep pinks, to yellows. Rare Find Nursery and Fairweather Gardens both sell a terrific range, and they are among the finest mail order nurseries in the country.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 6:07AM
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Please do not -- repeat not -- plant a Carolina silverbell. I am in North Carolina and wanted a native tree. Drove hours to a nursery that sold silverbells. Two died nearly overnight, though I dug out the four out of five that looked bad and tried them in different locations.
The one that has survived (about 6 years now) is not very satisfactory. The leaves get diseases, and it tries to send up multiple trunks. The flowers are pretty if they don't get frozen or rained on which happens often. We chose it because it stays short and is under an electric cable, but that's its only virtue.
We decided the pH was wrong, so if you do try the silverbell, first be sure the pH is what it wants (I forget but think it needed a lower pH than we had).
Now have three Acer griseum which are beautiful.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 7:08PM
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Fringe Tree, Chionanthus virginicus, plant many of them. Can't have too many. My experience with Halesia (Silverbell) is opposite from Christina. I found them to be forgiving and bloom well. The biggest drawback has been their attractiveness to deer. Between the buck rubs and them eating the bloom, I never know what I'll have in the spring.

Callicarpa americana is another attractive small shrub. Not as showy as the more commonly planted C. dicotoma, but the berries keep their color much longer. The small pink/purple flowers bloom from mid-June til mid July here in PA, so you get color early and late in the season.

Frangula (Rhamnus) caroliniana, Carolina Buckthorn / Indian Cherry is another nice plant. Not to be confused with the imported Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), an invasive species and destroyer of the woods. The native species is a fine landscape plant if you don't want a really formal look. Ditto on the various Aesculus species, especially Aesculus parviflora and A. pavia. Commonly called Buckeyes.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 8:35PM
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Karolina11(6b Central PA)

Thank you for all of the suggestions.

So far for fall delivery I have ordered the following -
Magnolia 'Butterflies'
Magnolia 'Genie'
Magnolia 'Vulcan'
Chrysanthemifolia Star Magnolia
Chionanthus virginicus
Cercis canadensis 'The Rising Sun'
Cercis canadensis 'Appalachian Red'
Cercis canadensis 'Burgundy Hearts'
Cornus kousa 'Blue Shadow'
Cornus kousa 'Akatsuki'
Syringa reticulate
Fagus sylvatica âÂÂRoseo Marginataâ (tricolor beech)
Kwanzan flowering cherry
Weeping Double Red Flowering Peach
Acer palmatum 'Coral Pink'
Acer palmatum 'Oregon Sunset'
Ginkgo biloba 'Mariken' (a male)

Definitely excited! Still keeping an eye out for things that peek my interest. If any of the good mail order nurseries do end of season sales or anything, I would love to know about them! I am also still debating the purple cherry I asked about as I ordered the rosebud Burgundy Hearts which is the color and size I was looking for. Thank you for the suggestions!

Also, everything above is mail order and smaller than what I see at nurseries (on purpose for saving reasons). Being in zone 6b and with the property having a windbreak all around, should I be doing anything special for these trees for the winter? I will be planting in October. I have planted shrubs and perennials at that time and been fine through the winter but don't have any experience with trees.

Thank you again for all of the help!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 10:26PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Please plan carefully how you plant your trees. Don't dot them all over the lawn. Plant in designated areas and consider planting a couple of big, slower growing trees like oaks that will play well with the smaller, understory trees. Also, you most definately want trees to the east and even more important the west of your house to give you shade from sun.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 6:23AM
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Don't know if you will see this but I am looking for Chrysanthemifolia Star Magnolia and wondered where you got yours.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 6:23AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Wow Karolina - don't go too crazy!
I wouldn't normally make a recommendation, but, since you are in "central PA" which usually means the Harrisburg-York-Lancaster area, do visit Groff's Plant Farm in southern Lancaster Co. They don't have a huge selection of flowering trees,* but IIRC I saw a few on your list there, and their prices are very reasonable. Generally speaking, your chances of having success with a well-grown locally purchased plant are slightly higher than with a mail order plant.

* they do have a huge selection of annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, and vines.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Mon, May 5, 14 at 10:41

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 10:39AM
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