New and unusual small trees and shrubs

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As the owner of a typical city garden – small, long and narrow – I’m always on the look-out for trees and shrubs that provide interest year-round and do it without taking over the garden.

A few weeks ago, landscape designer Marion Jarvie came to my rescue (and to those of us who packed the Civic Garden Centre’s floral Hall) with her lecture, Trees and Shrubs: New – Unusual – and Small. Her slide presentation highlighted some wonderful new plants that would fit right into a small garden.

Here are some of the trees and shrubs that caught my eye:


Abeliophyllum distichum Pink forsythia
Abeliophyllum distichum Pink forsythia

Abeliophyllum distichum Pink forsythia: I have long lusted after the great white forsythia, (not a forsythia at all, but a fragrant Korean relative) and now there’s a pink form. With a perfectly rounded shape and growing four feet in diameter, Abeliophyllum distichum is hardy to Zone 4 and produces fragrant pink blossoms. What’s not to like about this little gem? For best bloom, Marion advises pruning hard right after it flowers.


Acer negundo 'Flamingo' Variegated Manitoba maple
Acer negundo

Acer negundo ‘Flamingo’ Variegated Manitoba maple: Who would have thought that a Manitoba maple would be on a list of small trees? Topping out at under 30 feet, this maple tree features variegated leaves that bud out a clear pink and white in spring, green with white variegation later in the summer – and it’s hardy to Zone 5. It sure beats the Manitoba maples that typically line the streets of Toronto.



Acer japonicum 'Shirasawanum' (syn. 'Aureum')Full moon maple
Acer japonicum ‘Shirasawanum’ (syn. ‘Aureum’)Full moon maple

Acer japonicum ‘Shirasawanum’ (syn. ‘Aureum’)Full moon maple: I first saw this small maple tree on Kathy Renwald’s Calling All Gardeners television program (pre-HGTV), and have been trying to track it down ever since. (Why do nurseries make it so difficult to find such beauties? Luckily, Vineland Nurseries lists it in their catalogue.) Growing only 20 to 30 feet tall, the full moon maple features soft green leaves that are beautifully rounded in shape. According to Marion, it will grow in semi-shade – always an issue in city gardens.


Berberis koreana 'Red Tears' Korean barberry
Berberis koreana ‘Red Tears’ Korean barberry

Berberis koreana ‘Red Tears’ Korean barberry: Long banned in Canada because it was thought they were a host to wheat rust disease, barberries have now been removed from Agriculture Canada’s hit-list. (Berberis vulgaris was the real culprit.) Fairly large for a shrub, ‘Red Tears’ produces seven-foot sprays of arching branches covering with bright red berries in fall and winter. “Like an old-fashioned Victorian lampshade,” is how marion describes it. As if that’s not enough, this barberry has bright autumn foliage.

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Jemy O'Neil
Jemy O'Neil
Jemy is a 28-year-old former health center receptionist who enjoys cycling, cookery and adult coloring books. He is friendly and likes to travel with his friends. He loves to check out the best products in the market that's why he made HuntForBest


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