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Use small trees as a focal point in the landscape

Spring bloom of the dogwood tree
Spring bloom of the dogwood tree
Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Gardeners often use a specimen tree in the landscape as a focal point to draw attention to a particular area. Use an unusual or showy plant because of its flowers, fruits, form, exfoliating bark or some combination of these. Designers sometimes use small trees as shrubbery, but keep in mind, these become tree size if allowed to grow in their natural form. Use one of these great plants as a specimen in your landscape.

Angel's Trumpet

Brugmansia, or Angel's Trumpet is the most spectacular of blooming trees. Available in a variety of pale flower colors, with single or double blooms, Brugmansia can bear hundreds of trumpet-shaped flowers at once. This extraordinary bloom of flowers is called a flush. A flush occurs at any time from spring through fall, depending on where the plant is sited. While the Angel's trumpet is said to be hardy in gardening USDA Zones 9-11, many Zone 7.growers experience prolific blooms. Gardeners further north grow Angel's trumpets in large containers that are moved inside during winter.

The Angel's trumpet has a distinctly sweet, nighttime aroma. Place this specimen in full sun conditions for best flowering.


The flowering dogwood, Cornus Florida, is a woodland native; providing four seasons of interest in the landscape. Use this spring-blooming specimen in full or part shade conditions. Highly ornamental flowering occurs before the leaves appear. The flowering dogwood is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9 and prefers moist, well-drained soil.

This specimen has a short, low-branching habit and camouflage-like bark, sometimes called alligator hide. The flowers, form and bark spark interest during all four seasons of the year.

Saucer Magnolia

Magnolia x soulangiana, the Saucer Magnolia is an upright, oval-shaped deciduous tree, hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. Highly ornamental flowers bloom in early spring, but before the bloom they look like fuzzy rabbit feet. Locate the Saucer Magnolia in full sun to light shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Those who have winter freeze might want to plant on the north side of a building to discourage early blooms being nipped by frost. The Saucer Magnolia is urban-tolerant, making it a desirable specimen for big city lawns. Current horticultural trends are toward development of a later blooming hybrid.

Take advantage of these ornamental trees for eye-catching specimen displays in your landscape.

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