How big is your paperbark maple? Need tree for small space

jillyluis(6A)June 1, 2013

I posted a similar question on the tree forum, but the tree folk here tell me tree size is very regional. I'm trying to find a tree with multi-season interest to put in our courtyard. The courthard is 14x 30, but hardscarped in the middle, so the tree is going into a bed that is 10 by 7, so ultimately, the trunk will end up being 5 feet from the house. Everyone has different opinions, and at least one person has said that wolf's eye dog wood, stewartia, or fringe tree will get too big. I am strongly leaning towards a paperbark maple, but online it says it gets to be 20 by 20, which clearly is a problem. I talked to three senior tree people at Weston and they agreed that it would fit in the space, while talking me out of a more expensive trees.
The other possibility is a japanese maple, but for some reason, I'm not thrilled (we two trees only on our lot right now, and both are JM' is huge and old, and the other is a tiny cut leaf, so I think I'd like something different). One more thing, our house is an old colonial, so nothing too modern looking.
Thanks a lot,

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Take a look at Betula nigra "Little King" (Fox Valley) -
it's a dwarf version of one of my all-time favorite trees,
the river birch 'Heritage'. The full, small-leaved canopy
is delightful, the peeling white bark in winter gorgeous,
and it only grows to about ten feet! Light-weight branches
are easy to prune back whenever necessary, which I do
frequently where I have one planted closer to a wall.


Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Botanical Garden

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 11:20PM
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molie(z6 CT)

I love our Acer griseum, Cinnamon Bark Maple--- it's one of our favorite trees because of the bright exfoliating bark and narrow growth habit. Yes, it does take years for it to reach its full height. Still, "small" for a tree can get pretty big. We've had ours for just one year and it's grown very slightly. We bought it locally after originally seeing a fairly mature one at Kent Gardens & Nursery Center in Kent, CT.

We also have a Cornus Kousa 'Wolf Eyes' but I agree ---no, that tree will get much too broad for your area even if you continually prune it.

Betula nigra is gorgeous tree. Ours (Cully) is a fast grower but much too large for your space. However, the variety Carl suggested looks like a promising solution. You should call around to nursery centers in your state to see if anyone has it in stock.

Since fall is such a great time to plant trees, you don't have to rush to plant. Why not visit some botanical/city gardens to see more mature varieties of those trees that interest you? I'm glad you've looked for help at local, reputable nursery centers. These are great resources because they not only want your business but also want the good will spread by satisfied customers.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 2:07PM
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My paperbark is too young to be of help to you, but there is a paperbark maple on the UNH campus where I work. That one is too large for the space you have, but I don't know how old it is or how quickly they grow, and I don't know how you feel about having to cut down a tree in 15 years if it gets too big. Durham, NH is in zone 6A.

When I next go into work, I'll take a photo, but it may not be for a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 2:56PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Jill, is your plan to limb up the tree so you can walk under it? If that is the case, then you might be able to plant a tree that might seem slightly too big for the area. Could you plant it closer to the patio and then half of the canopy would be over the hardscaped area? This will only work if you can walk under it. We did this on our side deck with a bloodgood Japanese maple.

If you went with that approach most of the trees you mentioned would work. However, the fringe tree leafs out awfully late and it does look better when it is left as a multi-trunk tree so it forms much more of a large vase. I would rule that one out first.

I'm a huge fan of stewartia which has the interesting bark, flowers and great fall foliage.
My paperbark maple is growing very slowly, so you may be OK with that, but as Nhbabs said, at some point in time you may run into size issues.

Have you thought about any large shrubs? Rose of sharon grows quite vertically and blooms for a very long time. There are some good viburnum plicatum (snowball viburnums) that get more tall than wide. And if you can find it, I can't say enough about Sinocalycalycanthus 'Hartlage wine'. This is a gorgeous shrub that blooms for quite a long time. Anyone who visits my garden wants to know what it is. I'm working on limbing mine up to a small tree.

Possibly check out Aesculus pavia as well. That is a nice small tree with flowers the hummers like.

There's a lot out there and definitely something that will suit the space and be interesting as well.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 4:28PM
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rockman50(6b SEMASS)

My mom (in SE Mass) has a paperbark maple in exactly the same kind of spot that you describe. She has a brick walkway leading to the house with two small courtyards on either side. Each courtyard is about 10x10 feet. She has a huge stewartia on the left side. It is the biggest one I have ever seen and it has been growing in that spot since 1975. The trunk is stunning--huge, beautifully mottled, and almost wrinkled near the base--like a huge glistening anaconda. On the right side is the paperbark maple. It has been growing there about 24 years and the trunk is about 5 feet from a wall of the house that frames the west side of the courtyard. It has been limbed up so it can be walked under. The trunk is absolutely amazing---which is one of the great benefits of limbing it up. Both courtyards are lined with boxwood with ginger as groundcover under each tree. They are really two amazing trees. So I think it will work. And if it matters, the late Allen Haskell from New Bedford planted both of them in those locations. And he knew what he was doing.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 7:50PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Rockman, any chance to post a pic of your mom's courtyard? It sounds awesome. I would love to see it.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 8:27PM
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I'd love to see those courtyards, too, Rockman!

What sort of sun exposure does this site have? Is air circulation a possible problem? Would surface roots be a problem, with the paving so near to the tree you're going to plant?

I agree that stewartia - at least the S. pseudocamellia - is too wide for this spot. I have a few, and they like to spread out vertically. There are other varieties, though - the Arnold Arb has one called âÂÂScarlet Sentinelâ that's much narrower, with unusual flowers that have red anthers, which sounds great.

Polly Hill, on the Vineyard, often sells interesting varieties or cultivars, too - usually small starts if I remember correctly. Since these flower after all the showy spring trees and shrubs, and have lovely bark and branch structure, it might be worth taking a second look at them.

I have a Cornus mas very near my house. It's limbed up so I can walk under it, and the back branches are removed to stay away from the siding - this has to be done carefully to not spoil the natural form of the tree. Its spring foliage is a lovely bright yellow, and it seems trouble free. The only drawbacks to this small tree are that the flowers, while sweet and *very* early, are almost insignificant, and the foliage does turn green in the heat of summer.

Would something like a Hammamellis 'Diane' work here? There's nothing quite like having flowers in February, especially if placed where they can be seen from inside the house.

Not sure where you're located, but if you can get down to Katsura Gardens in Plymouth MA, the owner is one of the most knowledgeable tree experts in New England. He has an amazing selection, he grows plants with eventual shape in mind, and he seems to know the strengths of every variety he has in stock.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 9:43AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Oh, I second Dee's comments about Katsura Gardens. That's such a marvelous place and worth the drive from anywhere, even here in S. CT. We plan on going later after summer is over and the traffic thins out.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 12:34PM
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rockman50(6b SEMASS)

My mom's courtyard has northern exposure. But both trees are tall enough that they get plenty of sun. The stewartia is a pseudocamellia, but this particular one always wanted to grow up rather than out. Her only complaint is the stewartia flowers make a huge mess on the walkway and nearby driveway for a few weeks every year. The roots of both trees have never been a problem for the walkway. But they have made establishing the groundcover more challenging. I have no pics now, but I will make a point of taking a few during my next visit and then will post.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 2:29PM
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o.t. rockman, your mom must be a rather sophisticated gardener to have planted these fairly unusual trees over 30 years ago.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 11:21PM
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I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone. I equivocated for a while, but decided on a beautiful specimen from Weston that while expensive, I got a good price for the size. I'll post pictures if ever I can remember how once it's installed in a couple weeks.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 10:25PM
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Quite belatedly, here's UNH's paperbark maple, planted a bit too close to the building IMO. It's the one closest to the building and is probably a bit over 15' tall. I know that it's been there at least 10 years since it was good sized when I first encountered it in 2008, but I don't know how much older than that it is.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 9:58AM
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