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January 20, 2010 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Please help me decide what kind of tree to put in my front yard (Zone 7).


We have a small lawn in front of the house and I'd like to plant a tree that would look appropriate right smack in front. It will be the only plant, so there's the potential for it to be a showpiece.

The house is a single story, so would a dwarf tree be better?

I'd favor one that either keeps its leaves or has a beautiful look when denuded in the winter.

Flowering is optional, but if it flowers, does it do so at a young age or need to mature first?

We live in the Pacific Northwest, which means the tree must be able to withstand lots of rain.

It will be in full sun, on the days that we have any sun.

What we already have and don't need more of: conifers, rhododendrons, azaleas, black walnut, dogwood.

I would like something with a real branching "tree shape", as opposed to the dogwoods which just look too sparse.

In our neighborhood, my favorites are the ornamental cherries and magnolias, but I don't know how fast it would take a new planting to look established.

It would be great if you are able recommend an exact variety of tree, so I can just call the nursery and ask for it. I've spent some time sifting through different species and varieties and I'm lost. Thanks!
posted by Knowyournuts to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This website is great for looking for options.
posted by melissasaurus at 3:11 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I really like Japanese cutleaf maples. They usually have very beautiful shapes, even when young and even when they lose their leaves. They're very nice as single specimens.
posted by violette at 3:38 PM on January 20, 2010

What about a Bradford Pear? They have a very pleasing shape, so they look nice both with and without leaves, and seem to have many of the other virtues you want. In googling it, I discovered what appears to be a mini-controversy about the Bradford Pear versus some alternative trees, and you can read about that here.
posted by DrGail at 7:22 PM on January 20, 2010

Just an aside about the Bradford stinks when it's blooming. My sister has one in her yard and the smell is reminiscent of dead fish. Seriously. Plus, it is a really large tree, so might not be suitable for your space.

I'm partial to crabapples. I have several - they bloom young and they are hardy here in PA. I purchased a Prairiefire crabapple about 2 years ago and it has the most beautiful red bark. It also keeps the crabapples all winter unless the birds eat them, which they haven't for us.

Good luck!
posted by fresh-rn at 8:40 PM on January 20, 2010

You might like some of the birches, perhaps betula papyrifera (paper birch) or betula occidentalis (red birch), both of which like moist conditions and sun. They're also attractive without their leaves and generally grow fairly quickly. You might also want to consider how whatever tree you pick will offer shade (or not) to the house and if you've got power lines that might pose a problem when the tree matures.
posted by pappy at 9:12 PM on January 20, 2010

Bradford pears are lovely and quick growing, but break rather easily in a significant storm.
posted by littleflowers at 9:13 PM on January 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the great ideas! I'm going to look into these trees. We have lots of great nurseries near us.

A little more information: We don't need shade from the tree; we are surrounded by Douglas firs. So I have the opportunity to choose whatever I want without that concern. Also, the tree will be nearer to the street than to the house.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:20 AM on January 21, 2010

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