Posts are made by fools like me, but I need you to choose my tree
September 15, 2020 10:22 AM   Subscribe

We are finally cutting down the overly large, light-blocking, diseased evergreen tree in our front yard! We'd like to replace it with a flowering tree, but aren't sure which one makes the most sense. More inside...

We live in the Midwest, in a single floor home with a basement. It's maybe twenty-five-ish feet from where the tree would be to the peak of the roof. The front yard is at an angle going down from the house to the street.

We'd love to get a flowering tree to go there. Priorities would be: how healthy it would be in this area (obviously); getting something that would not also grow to overtake the front of the house; how long its flowering period would be (the longer the better); and how attractive it would be between blooms, just in and of itself.

posted by DirtyOldTown to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What USDA hardiness zone are you in?
posted by saladin at 10:36 AM on September 15 [2 favorites]

posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:37 AM on September 15

I'm a sucker for a good dogwood, which perform well in that zone: they flower later than cherry blossoms in the spring, the blossoms last a bit longer, and then their foliage provides a nice dappled shade (if you keep it pruned and healthy). There is quite a few colors to choose from, and a couple folks I know in our area (8b) have spliced other colors onto their dogwoods to make a bit of an ombre effect going from white to pink. It's quite stunning.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:41 AM on September 15 [4 favorites]

Sweetbay magnolia?
posted by sizeable beetle at 10:51 AM on September 15

I replaced the evergreen at the front of my house with a Saskatoonberry/Serviceberry tree. In the spring it has nice white flowers which become edible berries in early summer and in the fall the leaves turn a nice red. It looks like it'll grow in your area. The berries are OK, not great, but whatever you don't eat the birds will.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:58 AM on September 15 [4 favorites]

If you'd like to keep things on the smaller side, here's another vote for a dogwood or a redbud. They're both compact enough that they're never going to harm a foundation or fall on your house, and they're both spectacular in bloom. Redbuds make copious amounts of seed, too. They don't self-seed easily, but with a little care starting saplings you can quickly have as many as you like, since they're quite quick growing. Flowering cherries also come in many, many varieties and don't get monstrously large. The bloom period isn't long but is spectacular.

And of course, do not plant a callery pear.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:04 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]

I am a sucker for flowering chestnuts, and considering your location, would recommend a Red horse-chestnut. I think it's a very stately tree, and as beautiful with flowers as without.

(That link is the Morton Arboretum, and they have a great plant finder tool. I bet your local extension office would also have good advice.)
posted by minervous at 11:05 AM on September 15

Give some thought to how neat you want your tree to be. Do you want to be constantly raking up seeds/pods/nuts/leaves/etc? If you want to maintain a clean-looking yard, remember that some trees are higher maintenance that others.
posted by sardonyx at 11:28 AM on September 15

I love the look of Chasteberry (Vitex). It's hardy to Zone 6, so you might be just on the hairy edge of it. I have found that the mom-and-pop nurseries in the area have excellent knowledge and advice about what grows best. I've also found that they typically have stuff you're not likely to find at the big-box home improvement stores. Hollies are also good for year-round interest and can be pruned to a tree form.

Seconding the advice to avoid flowering pears (Bradfords, especially). They split easily in bad weather and spread easily enough to become super-invasive. Also they reek.
posted by jquinby at 11:35 AM on September 15

Can't tell if you want a shade tree or not. If you want something pretty that doesn't need to be very tall, I would strongly recommend a "dwarf" fruit tree. They exist for so many kinds of fruits. You get all the benefits of pretty flowers, supporting local insect life, delicious fruit, and with a smaller tree you can harvest and not loose as much to windfall, birds, squirrels, etc. You'll have enough to share with neighbors but not so much that you hate life.

The local agricultural extension office can help you choose a varietal for your area. This site has a finder to help you locate that office near you, but google or duck duck go will also find it with [county] ag extension.
posted by bilabial at 12:31 PM on September 15 [2 favorites]

Liriodendron tulipifera Fastigiata - it's a shorter-growing narrow tulip tree I know of some growing in Invercargill at 45°S that are ~20 years old and 7m high.

Virginia fringe tree is a smaller tree with foam-like flower and blue fruits - you need a boy and girl if you want the fruit tho'. Narrow form at bot of page - Both links ^ morton.arb

Styrax japonica link Chicago nursery. Appear to stay below 6m for quite a while, spreading, layered effect viewed from ground, with layers of white flowers.

When a client wants an attractive smaller, flowering tree these are among my top-ten.
posted by unearthed at 12:51 PM on September 15 [1 favorite]

Does anyone have any experience with the eastern redbud tree?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:24 PM on September 15

Here in zone 5b, Prunus subhirtella autumnalis flowers generously in spring and again, more lightly, in late fall-early winter. Very pretty when snow is falling and the flowers are in bloom. The flowers are a pale pink. When the leaves start to come out, they are at no point red, which is very important to me. It's a graceful tree and gives good shade. Ours is wider than it's high. Some lower branches need to be cut off when they are too low over our path into the garden, but the pruning is not even noticeable.

Here the length of flowering depends on the weather. A hot dry spring will shorten the flowering period. This cool spring it was glorious for weeks.

I planted one of its seedlings close to the house where we need shade. If we ever move I will plant one of these wherever we go.

There's a weeping variety.

You might want to check its eventual height with some reliable database and plant the tree that far from your house.

We bought our prunus as a baby treeling from Forestfarm (very affordable) because we were willing to wait, but you may want quicker results.
posted by sevenstars at 6:23 AM on September 16

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