Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

From Acer to Zelkova—New Small Trees Solve Big Problems

City Sprite Zelkova keeps a low profile.

It’s that time of year when horticultural trade shows deliver the best and brightest for next year’s market. I was lucky enough to attend several, including the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago and the FarWest Show in Portland, Oregon.

That’s where I met up with Nancy Buley, Communications Director of the wholesale company, J. Frank Schmidt. She’s also the co-owner of Treephoria, a small retail nursery. At the show booth, the bumper sticker she was giving away says, “Trees are the answer.”

So, what are the questions? How about—How can I create privacy on a small patio? Or, what would give height in a mature perennial border? The small-sized newcomers Nancy showed me offer season-round interest—compact shapes, colorful fruits, and exciting color.

Put these problem-solvers on your plant wish list now, and talk to the manager of your local nursery center about ordering them for you. If they’re not yet familiar with these trees, give them a heads up.

Maple Ruby Sunset® (Acer truncatum x A. platinoides ‘JFS-KW249’) combines the best of both parents with irresistible purple-tinged glossy foliage in spring and bright red fall color. At 25 feet tall and a slim 20 feet wide, this disease-resistant cold-hardy maple can be the focal point you need for year-round structure in your garden. (Zone 4b-9)

Crabapple Raspberry Spear (Malus ‘JFS KW213MX) is a columnar shape with dramatic coloring. Growing 20 feet tall and only 8 feet wide, the branches are covered with bright magenta flowers in spring. The foliage starts out dark purple, goes to green in late summer—great contrast to the dark red stems—and then offers purple-to-red fruits that persist through winter—unless the birds get them. (Zone 4-9)

Raspberry Spear crabapple starts off with dark purple foliage

Peach ‘Pix Zee’ (Prunus persica ‘Pix Zee’) shows off a mophead of foliage and tops out at six feet, so it can easily be grown in a 2-to 3-foot wide container. It doesn’t even need a pollinator to produce a heavy crop of golden freestone fruits. Chill requirements are 400 hours or fewer, so it’s excellent for warmer winter places. Below Zone 6, the small size means it’s the perfect candidate for the cool greenhouse. (Zone 6-9)

Zelkova City Sprite® (Zelkova serrata ‘JFS-KW1’) is a compact oval shape with bright green leaves. Growing 24 by 18 feet, it’s the perfect tree for street use—it’ll never tangle in the power lines above—and in the back yard it’s a tough easy-care blocker for neighboring houses without taking up valuable gardening space beneath it. (Zone 5-9)