Selecting the right feature tree is a crucial decision in garden design, offering both aesthetic appeal and functional benefits. Whether you're looking for shade, color, or an architectural element, each tree has its own set of characteristics that make it suitable for different landscapes and purposes.
Let's explore some of the best feature trees to consider for planting:
Native to Japan, Korea, and China, Acer Palmatum is a versatile tree known for its diverse range of leaf shapes and colors. It's a popular choice for smaller gardens or as a potted specimen due to its manageable size and attractive foliage.
- Mature Height: Typically 4-6m
- Mature Width: Usually spans 4-5m
- Form/ Habit: Graceful branching with a rounded canopy
- Evergreen/ Deciduous: Deciduous
Tolerates: Variety of soil types; prefers well-draining soil
- Best Uses: Excellent to use as feature trees, creating focal points in your garden or as a shade tree.
- Leaf Appearance: Offers a variety of colors and shapes, from palmate to deeply lobed leaves, with colors ranging from green to red, orange and purple.
- Rate of Growth: Moderate, depending on conditions and location (will grow quicker in warmer climates).
- Water requirement: Consistent moisture, avoiding over-saturation or complete dryness.
- Native to: East Asia.
- Notable Features: The Japanese Maple is renowned for its stunning Autumn color (reds, oranges and yellows) and the ornamental quality of its branch structures in winter.
Ginkgo Biloba, often referred to as the Maidenhair Tree, is distinguished by its unique leaf shape and brilliant yellow autumn foliage. It's highly valued for its resilience and adaptability to urban environments.
Mature Height (meters): 20-35 meters
Mature Width (meters): 8-12 meters
Spacing: Plant with sufficient space to accommodate its mature canopy.
- Foliage: Fan-shaped, bright green leaves in the spring and summer, turning vibrant shades of gold in the fall.
- Best Uses: Typically used as a Feature tree. Also suitable as a shade tree or street tree due to its high tolerance to pollution.
- Rate of Growth: Slow-growing.
- Native to: China.
- Notable Features: One of the oldest living tree species, it is resistant to many pests and diseases.
This tree stands as a living monument of the ages, renowned for its distinctive fan-shaped leaves that turn vivid yellow in fall. Ginkgo is a hardy survivor, unfazed by modern city pollution, making it a prime choice for urban landscapes.
- Mature Height: Up to 12 meters.
- Mature Width: Typically 4-6 meters.
- Best Uses: Ideal for creating contrast with darker foliage plants, as a specimen tree or in groups for larger landscapes.
- Leaf Appearance: Triangular leaves with a serrated edge that turn yellow in autumn.
- Rate of Growth: Moderate.
- Native to: Europe and parts of Asia.
- Notable Features: Its striking white bark peels with age, adding texture and interest, particularly in winter.
The 'Moss White' is a tree that captivates with its bright white bark and graceful, drooping branches. It's a beacon of light in any garden, particularly beautiful when its leaves turn golden in autumn.
'Forest Pansy' is a variety of Eastern Redbud that stands out for its deep purple leaves and springtime flowers. It's a multi-season tree valued for both its floral and foliage displays.
- Mature Height: Ranges from 3 to 8 meters.
- Mature Width: 3 to 5 meters in spread.
- Best Uses: Works well in mixed borders or as a stand-alone specimen in residential gardens.
- Leaf Appearance: Heart-shaped leaves that are purple in spring and turn to deep green.
- Rate of Growth: Moderate.
- Native to: Eastern North America.
- Notable Features: Pink to purple flowers bloom on bare branches early in spring before the foliage emerges.
'Forest Pansy' offers a flourish of spring colors with its purple to pink flowers and heart-shaped leaves. It's a showstopper in any garden, offering multi-season interest with a modest footprint.
The 'Little Gem' is a dwarf variety of the Southern Magnolia, appreciated for its compact size and long blooming period. It features large, white, fragrant flowers and is suitable for smaller gardens.
- Mature Height: 4-6 meters.
- Mature Width: 2-3 meters.
- Best Uses: Suitable for small yards as a specimen or screen.
- Leaf Appearance: Dark green, glossy leaves with a rusty brown underside.
- Rate of Growth: Slow.
- Native to: Southeastern United States.
- Notable Features: It produces large, creamy white flowers that are highly fragrant and bloom over an extended period.
A more petite version of the Southern Magnolia, 'Little Gem' provides large, fragrant blossoms and glossy evergreen foliage for those with smaller spaces but grand floral aspirations.
The 'Natchez' crepe myrtle is celebrated for its long-lasting summer blooms and attractive, peeling bark. This resilient tree is often used for its ornamental appeal and its ability to withstand heat and drought.
- Mature Height: Up to 9 meters.
- Mature Width: 5-10 meters.
- Best Uses: Commonly used as a street tree, in public parks, and as a specimen in large gardens.
- Leaf Appearance: Glossy green leaves that provide fall interest with red-orange coloration.
- Rate of Growth: Fast.
- Native to: East Asia.
- Notable Features: Produces white flowers in summer and has distinctive, exfoliating bark.
'Natchez' is a resilient, showy tree known for its long-lasting flowers and distinctive bark. It's a versatile landscape addition, thriving in the heat and bringing a touch of southern charm to the garden.
Known for its spectacular display of purple flowers, the Jacaranda tree is often used in tropical and subtropical regions for its shade and ornamental quality.
- Mature Height: Generally 10-15 meters.
- Mature Width: 8-12 meters.
- Best Uses: Street planting, large garden spaces for shade.
- Leaf Appearance: Bipinnate compound leaves that are fern-like in appearance.
- Rate of Growth: Moderate to fast.
- Native to: South America.
- Notable Features: It is known for its vibrant purple flowers that appear in late spring to early summer.
The Jacaranda is a tropical beauty with vibrant purple blooms that create a canopy of color in the spring. It's a popular shade tree that pairs its visual splendor with functional shade.
The Tuckeroo Tree is an evergreen species often selected for its robust nature and adaptability to varied environmental conditions. This Australian native is particularly suited to coastal landscapes for its high tolerance to wind and salt, making it an excellent choice for seaside planting.
- Mature Height: Generally reaches around 8-10 meters.
- Mature Width: The canopy typically spans 6-8 meters, providing a broad shade.
- Best Uses: Ideal for use as a street tree, in parks, and for coastal buffer planting due to its salt tolerance.
- Leaf Appearance: Features glossy, leathery green leaves with a rounded or oblique shape.
- Rate of Growth: Exhibits a moderate growth rate.
- Native to: Eastern and Northern Australian coastal rainforests.
- Notable Features: Known for its attractive, yellow-orange fruit which is encased in a papery capsule and its non-invasive root system, making it a safe choice for urban areas.
Tuckeroo is valued for its hardiness in urban conditions, ability to withstand periods of drought once established, and its usefulness as a habitat tree for wildlife. It serves as a functional yet aesthetically pleasing addition to a wide array of landscape designs.
This hardy deciduous tree is a standout with its early spring blossoms that drape the branches in white. The Ussurian Pear, with its robust nature, is ideal for those who want to herald spring with a show of delicate flowers and enjoy a canopy of lush green leaves throughout summer, which then turn to fiery hues as the cooler months approach.
Mature Height: Reaches up to 10 meters.
Mature Width: Spreads around 7 meters, providing a rounded canopy.
Best Uses: Perfect as a specimen tree for residential lawns or as a street tree for seasonal interest.
Leaf Appearance: Broad, glossy green leaves that transition to stunning shades of red and orange in the fall.
Rate of Growth: Moderate to fast, ensuring a swift impact in the landscape.
Native to: Eastern Asia, particularly Korea and parts of China and Russia.
Notable Features: It is tolerant of a range of soil types and harsh conditions, including cold climates.
The Bechtel Crabapple is an ornamental delight with its profusion of fragrant, double pink blossoms in the spring. As the seasons change, the tree continues to captivate with its attractive fruit and autumn leaf color, making it a multi-season wonder.
Mature Height: Generally 4-6 meters, suitable for small to medium-sized gardens.
Mature Width: Can spread 3-5 meters with a pleasing rounded shape.
Best Uses: Exceptional for bringing spring color to private gardens and attracting pollinators.
Leaf Appearance: Green leaves that turn to hues of yellow and orange in the fall.
Rate of Growth: Moderate, allowing gardeners to enjoy its beauty within a few seasons.
Native to: North America.
Notable Features: The tree's fruit can attract wildlife, adding life and movement to the garden scene.
In summary, selecting a feature tree depends on the desired impact in the garden—be it color, shade, or seasonal interest—as well as the tree's adaptability to the local environment. Each of the trees listed can serve as a striking focal point, contributing to the overall beauty and functionality of a garden space.