Landscapes are unique places that often convey their beauty and originality through the use of unusual trees. A common misconception about unusual trees in the landscape is that unusual means difficult to grow. The truth is that many unusual beautiful trees can add interest and uniqueness but still be easy to grow.
Of all the different types of specialty trees, from dwarfs to giants, perhaps none accents the landscape better than weepers. These beautiful trees, also called pendulous varieties, represent scores of species but have one thing in common; they all weep. Weeping trees have long, pendulous limbs that flow down from the upright trunk toward the ground in a graceful cascade of branches and leaves.
The most popular weeping tree is the weeping fruitless mulberry. This tree called ‘Chapparal’ is a rapid growing non-fruiting, weeping form of mulberry with cascading branches that gives its unusual appearance. The foliage is olive green, glossy and smooth and will grow most anywhere. It does need pruning to keep branches off the ground.
Weeping willow is another popular form of weeping tree. It can reach 30 to 50 feet tall with a 30- to 40-foot spread. A spectacular tree, very dominating in its overall effect in the landscapes, it should be used sparingly. It needs pruning from time to time to keep it from getting too large and to assist in good structure development.
Weeping pine is not seen around here in the nurseries but could be used in better locations. This tree has the soft needles as the other white pines, but on a framework of pendulous branches that is as graceful as a waterfall. With time the long branches grow to the ground.
Japanese Pagoda tree has a weeping form called ‘Pendula’ that can be grown from seed. Soils have to be fair to good to grow. This tree is a small to medium-sized tree that spreads horizontally to cover patios and recreation areas well.
Another unusual tree for the landscape is the corkscrew willow. This tree is praised by some, scorned by others, but sold in large quantities by the nurseries. It is very easy to grow but short lived. It is a real eye-catcher, more because of the bizarre stem structure than its beauty. The young stems are upright, green, smooth, slender and twisted or contorted in various ways. It’s that twisted affect that makes the corkscrew willow unusual.
For a different, unusual leaf shape, try the ginkgo or maidenhair tree. Their leaves are 2 to 4 inches across, wedge or fan-shaped with the outer margin frequently having a cleft in the center and base gradually narrowing. Ginkgo is highly acclaimed for street tree plantings and for urban landscaping. Because of the nasty smelling fruits on the females, only males should be planted in the landscape with close contact with people.
The American smoke tree is unusual not from it branching structure but from its fruiting cluster. It gets its name from the smoke-like appearance the fruit cluster produces in May and June. The fruit cluster colors range from pinkish to purplish color depending on the variety.
Arizona cypress is a drought tolerant, evergreen tree native to Southwestern United States. In the landscape it reaches a height of 20 to 25 feet and 15 feet wide. The foliage can be a gray to green color, but more obtain turns a bluish color.
A final note on trees. For some of us, life in the landscape can be a love/hate relationship. Allergies can make some of us miserable with certain trees and have no affect with others. The American Lung Association says these trees are not likely to cause respiratory allergies: firs, redbuds, dogwoods, ginkgo, magnolias, pines and pears. The next time you plant a tree keep this in mind if you have allergies.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton.