What good would the outdoors be if it weren’t for trees? Trees make up an important piece of our world, providing shade and shelter for wildlife, vital oxygen for all living things, and natural dimension and visual appeal to our Iowa prairie landscape. The addition of trees to our yards adds character that will mature for generations to come.
What is an Ornamental Tree?
Ornamental trees are trees that are smaller in size when compared to shade trees, but add visual appeal to the landscape through shape, texture, and seasonal color. They are living decorations that transform a flat lawn into a natural habitat for birds, bees, and the occasional squirrel. They can also provide natural shade over open decks, and some trees even produce edible fruit. Just about any yard can be enhanced by planting an ornamental tree, provided it’s carefully chosen to suit the property.
Ornamental Trees Ideal for the Front of the Home:
These are all smaller sized ornamental trees that are suitable for the corners of homes or accent trees along the front of a home.
Serviceberry Trees are truly a four-season ornamental tree. From their white flowers in spring, their edible berries in the summer, or their fiery foliage in the fall, these are a top pick for smaller spaces. We love the Autumn Brilliance variety.
Sargentina Crab Apple Trees, the dwarf version of the Sargent Crabapple Tree, Sargentinas are compact with voluminous white blossoms in the spring.
Redbud Trees’ flower display packs show-stopping color in the springtime. Their head-turning magenta blooms are simply unforgettable.
Bloodgood Japanese Maple shows off red foliage that gets brighter in the early season and deepens into fall. These ornamental maples do well in containers or planted directly into the soil.
Crimson Queen Japanese Maple’s foliage has an attractive feathery texture that looks great as a garden accent.
Medium Sized Ornamental Trees for Front and Backyards:
While we may not spend as many hours out front as we do in our backyards, our front yards are important for the resale value of our properties. Ornamental trees are a simple and impactful landscaping change that can drastically improve a home’s curb appeal. The challenge is the smog and dust that inevitably comes with a street-facing property. For curb-facing outdoor spaces, it’s important to select ornamental trees that can stand up to the environmental pollutants.
Sunburst Honey Locusts are great trees for lining streets. They have bright, cheerful-looking green leaves and are considered highly tolerant of pollutants. Sunburst honey locust trees grow to an approximate height of 30 to 40 feet, great for adding an established look!
Chanticleer Pears are gorgeous trees that explode with flowers in spring and show off vibrant foliage in fall. They are not picky about soil and can do well in front yards. Chanticleer pear trees tend to reach a height of about 30 feet tall and 15 feet across.
Crabapple Trees make exceptionally popular ornamental trees due to their pretty spring blooms and bird-friendly fruit. Our favorite mid-sized varieties are Royal Raindrops, Donald Wyman, Prairiefire, Sargent, and Zumi.
Tulip Tree’s showy foliage looks great in any yard, but their namesake blooms, which look just like spring tulips, are the star of the show.
Japanese Katsura Trees have an interesting tendency to develop two-tone foliage in the fall. The tips of their leaves blush with a rosy shade while the rest of the leaf turns a radiant yellow, giving the whole tree a painted effect.
Hot Wings Maple look like they’re covered in flowers from afar, with their ruffled bright green leaves and delicate red samara “wings”. They make great trees for those who like a little bit of red color in their outdoor space.
Japanese Lilac Trees are beloved for the fragrance of their bloom which, for some of us, is the quintessential “smell of spring”! Lilacs are really a large shrub, but they still make fantastic ornamentals for smaller yards, maturing at heights of 15-20 feet tall. Japanese Lilac Trees bloom later than most ornamental trees, with a creamy white bloom. They also have a nice texture from their seed heads in the winter, which provides nice seasonal interest when it snows. These hardy trees slowly grow to 25 ft tall.
Ornamental Trees for Small Yards & Compact Areas:
Small spaces, including patios and corners of our homes, can be tricky to landscape, but a scaled-down ornamental tree can add a great focal point to anchor the area or shape the overall feel of the space.
Pagoda Dogwood Trees show off elegant, white blooms in the spring. Dogwood trees reach heights of approximately 25 feet, if allowed, but can be kept small if pruned regularly.
Japanese Maple Trees are among the most famous ornamental trees. There are many varieties of Japanese Maples that range in height from 3 to over 30 feet tall, but they’re all celebrated for their beautiful foliage and fiery autumn colors. Two common varieties we carry are Bloodgood and Crimson Queen.
Seven Sons Trees are members of the honeysuckle family. Their late-summer to early-fall blooming flowers have a lovely fragrance and attract scads of butterflies.
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, Sargent or Sargentina Crabapple, and Redbuds also do well in these settings.
Ornamental Trees that Bear Edible Fruit:
While flowering trees deserve their day in the sun, those of us who love to grow our own food are drawn to fruit-bearing trees. Here are a few that are hardy enough for our Iowa winters.
Apple Trees are a favorite for all the right reasons. The trees look gorgeous and produce generous yields of delicious fruit for eating, baking, and sharing. There are countless varieties of apples to choose from that do well in our climate, but it’s best to select a variety that is equally delicious for raw eating and cooking. Try Cortland apples or Gala apples for deliciously versatile fruit.
Tart Cherry Trees are more reliably hardy in Iowa than their sweet counterparts. The fragrant blossoms look breathtaking in springtime, and by mid-summer, the fruit is ready for picking. Tart cherries make fantastic jams and jellies.
Persimmon Trees are an exotic and uncommon choice. Their bright orange fruit is both ornamental and edible, on and off the tree. They are best consumed when ripe to the point of over-ripeness, otherwise their flavor can be quite tannic. When ripe, the fruit is delicate and sweet, working well in anything from baked goods to salsas.
Serviceberry Trees produce berries that both birds and people find irresistible. They taste similar to blueberries, making a fun treat for children to pick.
By giving an ornamental tree a home on your property, you can expect charm, character, and added property value that will grow and mature over time. To learn more about the benefits of adding an ornamental tree to your yard, talk with one of our landscape experts today!