tree me
September 26, 2012 4:58 PM   Subscribe

What tree should we plant in our small front yard? We're in DC, and the area gets full sun. We'd like something beautiful and maybe blossomy, but that grows relatively quickly and is somewhat idiot-proof. Also, any good books or sites out there on tree care?
posted by yarly to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Crab Apple?
posted by HuronBob at 5:39 PM on September 26, 2012

A dogwood: lovely flowers (well, they're brachts, actually!) that come in a variety of shades from white to dark pinks giving way to nicely leafed-out branches, and the trees don't grow too huge for a small yard. The only caveat is, there has been a disease killing off tons of dogwoods all across the country (think of the devastation Dutch elm disease caused), but they are cross-breeds specifically bred to be disease resistant.
posted by easily confused at 5:43 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

How big of a tree? I'm going to be replacing a sick flowering cherry in our yard with a sourwood soon. It will attract honeybees, which for me is a serious plus, though it might not be for you.
posted by jquinby at 5:56 PM on September 26, 2012

You can't go wrong in DC with a nice cherry tree!
posted by bensherman at 6:19 PM on September 26, 2012

I love Eastern Red Buds, they are BEAUTIFUL (small blossoms in spring) and perfect for a small yard. Ours was very fast growing.
posted by nanook at 6:24 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

here in the pacific northwest the Japanese 'fire' maples make great street trees. All the other maples are pretty good also for big majestic shady trees. Not any blossoms but the fire maples turn the best red color for about 2 weeks in the fall than drop their leaves in about 2 days making the leave cleanup pretty easy, one time affair. Whatever you do stay away from sweet gums. Uggh. Apples are great but require a lot of pruning to not turn into a twisted, gnarly, ugly mess.
posted by bartonlong at 6:44 PM on September 26, 2012

Crape myrtles are lovely and keep their blooms longer than red buds and dogwoods (both of which I love too). Trimming can keep them on the smaller side and I haven't killed mine yet so they're pretty idiot proof.
posted by bluesapphires at 6:44 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meyr lemons and Mexican limes do great in small spaces. We have a maybe 6x20 allotment and ours are in containers and they each produce about a dozen fruit a year (we've had them for three or so years). The blossoms on each smell AMAZING. We have an sprinkler hose set up to water them once a day for about 15 minutes so we don't even have to think about that. We don't prune them or anything. I've read that if we did they'd produce even more fruit.

The only caveat is that we are in Houston and don't really get cold weather. A few nights last winter we had to move them inside when the temps dipped below freezing, but hey, that's the benefit of having them in containers.
posted by Brittanie at 6:51 PM on September 26, 2012

Get a crimson beech tree. We have one in Toronto that's grown about 20' in the last 7 years. It has beautiful crimson/pink leaves in the spring that get more subdued as the summer goes by. Beautiful in the fall as well. No flowers, seeds, keys or fruit. I love ours. People walking by are are always asking us about it.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:33 PM on September 26, 2012

The Arbor Day Foundation has a tree wizard that can help you select the right tree for your region and conditions:

They'll also then sell you bare root stock, and the Weeping Willow I selected for my yard arrived as a spindly 3' stick with a couple of roots. A year and a half later it's 12' tall and glorious. YMMV, but that indicates to me the health of what they sell. They also have a wealth of tree care info.

I'll +1 for dogwoods in genera since they're lovely and would do well in your hardiness zone, l, but they might be too big and too slow growing for your purposes.
posted by OHSnap at 8:45 PM on September 26, 2012

I planted a flowering mimosa in my back yard four years ago. It was about 18 inches tall. Now it's about 15 feet tall, and I sit in its shade on hot afternoons. I've had to trim the lower branches the past two years to make headroom. It has lovely flowers, and they seem to last most of the summer.
posted by mule98J at 12:53 AM on September 27, 2012

Besides dogwoods, Bradford pears and crabapples are also common ornamental flowering trees that do well in the mid-Atlantic region; the blossoms of both tend to pinks, and are quite attractive (both are somewhat similar to cherry blossoms; the dogwoods, of course, have larger flat four-lobed 'blossoms').

The Bradford pears, in fact, are frequently used by local governments along streets; they're pretty, hardy, and fast-growing, plus they don't get too big for small yards. They do have one drawback: they tend to have shallow root systems. This is good if you need to consider underground power-, water- or sewage-lines, but it's definately something to keep in mind if the tree would be very close to your house.

Alternatively: if it's a VERY small yard, would you be better off with a flowering bush, like a forsythia?
posted by easily confused at 12:51 PM on September 28, 2012

Bradford pears are nice to look at for sure, but 2 more caveats - some folks find the scent of the blossoms objectionable, and their limbs (and trunks) do not do well in any sort of wind. On the other hand, even if they split right down to the ground after a storm, they will come back with a fierce vengeance as they're very difficult to kill. We had one cut down 5 years ago and I'm still fighting suckers and things (the stump's in a spot where it can't be ground out, unfortunately).

Crabs will drop fruit, so bear that in mind. Windfall fruit can attract yellowjackets.
posted by jquinby at 1:18 PM on September 28, 2012

..another drawback of Bradford pears is that they send up weird little root suckers from the lawn around them and these can't be irritating/painful to walk on.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:55 PM on September 29, 2012

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