9 Small Native Trees for Urban Gardens


Photo: Alternate Leaf Dogwood from Ontario Native Plants

As November arrives, it’s the perfect time to turn our attention to a collection of native trees that equally deserve a place in our urban landscapes. These trees not only add beauty but also support our local ecosystems with their pollinator-attracting flowers and bird-friendly fruits.

1. Alternate-leaved Dogwood – In spring, this small tree sports clusters of delicate white flowers, followed by bluish-black berries in late summer. This tree thrives in partial shade, making it ideal for areas with dappled sunlight or where full sun exposure may be limited.

2. Blue-Beech– Despite its name, the blue beech is more closely related to birch trees than other beech trees. Distinguished by its smooth, blue-gray bark, this tree stands out in any garden and plays host to several butterfly species.

3. Staghorn Sumac – Although more akin to a large shrub, the Staghorn’s height and spreading habit make it a distinctive landscape feature. Come autumn, its fern-like leaves turn brilliant shades of red and orange. Distinctive red, fuzzy fruit clusters persist, adding a unique textural element to the winter garden.

A long row of Staghorn Sumac at Canadensis
Staghorn Sumac in Fall Colours at Canadensis

4. Pin Cherry – A small, fast-growing tree, Pin Cherry is famous for its striking displays of white blossoms in spring. It later offers small red cherries that are sought after by our avian friends.

Pin Cherry at the University of Guelph Arboretum

5. Mountain Maple – Acer Spicatum – Mountain maples put on a dazzling display of vibrant fall foliage, making them a standout for fall-themed gardens. These are among the smallest trees in the maple species, offering a compact size that fits well in city landscapes.

6. Serviceberry (Juneberry) – With its showy white spring flowers, Serviceberry is also a food source for pollinators. Early summer brings delicious edible berries, which serve as a banquet for songbirds and small mammals.

A downy serviceberry tree in full bloom

7. White Cedar – As an evergreen, Cedars maintain their lush green foliage throughout the year. They are exceptional choices for creating privacy screens and windbreaks in your outdoor space.

8. Canada Plum – While primarily used for pollination purposes, the Canada Plum also yields tasty fruits. Although somewhat bitter, these fruits can be used to create delicious compotes and jellies.

9. Common Juniper – This evergreen boasts blue-green, needle-like foliage. It produces small berry-like cones that range from green to dark blue, adding both color and aroma to the garden.

Most of these native treasures reach a mature height of 15-25 feet, making them excellent choices for our Alta Vista gardens. And good news: November is still typically a good month for tree planting!

Author: Patricia Mosher. You can reach Patricia by email to ottawaplantbynumbers@gmail.com

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