Ornamental Tree Traits

By The Old House Web

Ornamental Tree Traits

The main ornamental feature of some trees is flowers. Most flowering trees bloom in the spring then do not provide any show the rest of the year. When possible, use trees blooming at some time other than spring. Select flowering trees having another ornamental trait displayed later in the season. An ideal flowering tree may have flowers in the spring and ornamental fruits and fall foliage color later in the season.

Ornamental fruits can be a mixed blessing. They provide a display of color after flowering and may persist into winter providing late season interest. However, fruits can be a mess to clean up. Trees with heavy seed set can give rise to unwanted volunteer plants. Trees fruiting heavily and retaining their fruits into winter may be attractive to birds.

Foliage color may occur at several times during the year. Some trees have brightly colored foliage in the spring but are green by early summer. Others have foliage color other than green during most of the growing season. The most common colors are purple, yellow, or a combination of green and white. Foliage colors are most brilliant in the fall. The exact fall color developed by a tree is influenced by the weather and site.

Bark is an often overlooked ornamental characteristic. The bark may be colored, or have an unusual texture. Bark is one of the few ornamental traits present during the winter. A tree may be several years old before displaying the ornamental bark characteristic of its species.

Growth habit refers to the outline or branching pattern. Growth habits of trees can be ornamental when outlined with snow during the winter. Most trees have a characteristic shape. Some have cultivars with a shape or growth habit different from the species. For instance, a cultivar may have either a weeping or very upright growth habit. Some tree cultivars are dwarfs and and grow like shrubs. Dwarfs are useful where a small tree is needed. Weeping trees can be especially ornamental when flowering, however mowing under trees weeping to the ground can be a problem. Tall, narrow, upright trees are used where overhead growing space is limited but are generally not good shade trees.

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