Looking for a specimen tree to add drama and visual impact to your yard or garden? Local tree experts list some of their favorites:
Uncle Fogey Weeping Jack Pine (pictured). Introduced by the University of Minnesota in 1971, this drooping, undulating evergreen cuts a distinctive figure year-round. "It's an interesting little specimen plant with short needles," said Jeff Johnson of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, which has several examples of Uncle Fogey on display.
Weeping White Spruce. This slender, vertical evergreen has been described as a paradox because it's both upright and pendulous. Said Cory Whitmer, design manager at Mustard Seed in Chaska: "It stays really narrow," rarely getting to be more than 5 feet wide even when 30 feet tall. It also has a dramatic trailing growth habit. "When it hits the ground, it starts to run."
Fall Fiesta Maple (pictured). It's hard to top a sugar maple for spectacular autumn display, and this species is a winner for its all-around beauty and toughness, said Peggy Anne Montgomery, spokeswoman for Bailey Nurseries. "It's gorgeous, upright with a symmetrical habit." It also boasts superior disease resistance and brilliant orange and red fall foliage.
Three-flower Maple. Johnson, of the arboretum, likes this small maple, which also features spectacular fall foliage -- plus a bonus: exfoliating bark of an amber brown color that adds visual interest during the bleak winter months.
Copper Curls. Whitmer of Mustard Seed is a fan of this Pekin lilac. "It's a new one," he said, and features oblong bloom clusters, similar to the Japanese tree lilac, and coppery-colored peeling bark, similar to that of a river birch.
Amur Maackia (pictured). One of Montgomery's favorites, this tree offers white flowers in summer and attractive amber/copper bark. "It's really underused," she said.
Amur Cherry. Johnson is a fan of this white-flowering cherry tree, which features shiny, dark copper bark that peels off in thin layers.
Flowering crabapples are extremely popular as specimen trees, and everyone has a favorite. Johnson recommends Red Splendor and Indian Magic, both of which offer pink flowers in spring and bright-colored fruit. Montgomery likes the weeping crab Louisa (pictured), which has red buds that open to pink flowers, plus golden fruit. "And it's not too huge," she said. Whitmer is partial to Tina, which has a horizontal branching pattern and white flowers. "The branches are more ornamental and meandering, so they add winter interest," he said.
Minnesota Strain Redbud. Winter-weary Minnesotans warm up to this early bloomer, which puts on a display of vivid pink blossoms in early May. "The first flowers are the most precious because we've waited so long," Montgomery said.
Golden Black Spruce. Whitmer's favorite evergreen has a distinctive color pattern, with a blue tint on the underside of its needles, and a golden hue on top. "It's gorgeous," he said.
Nishiki Willow (pictured). This dappled willow gets its name from its unusual foliage. "It has a pretty little variegated leaf, with pink, white and green," Montgomery said. (Caution: Some sources list this tree as hardy only to Zone 5, so it may require a sheltered microclimate to thrive in the Twin Cities, which is Zone 4.)