Lawn trees provide beauty and sanctuary for animals and humans alike. Here are three underused deciduous trees with remarkable foliage.
Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica)
Spotlight. Persian Ironwood boasts elegant branch structure, attractive exfoliating bark, winter clusters of red flowers, and dramatic autumn foliage.
Why you should plant it. Persian Ironwoods seems to be the full package. In spring, the tree produces coppery new growth slowly darkening to deep green in summer. In autumn, the glossy foliage has a spectacular display transitioning from bronze, to ruby, to gold as temperatures drop. Mottled exfoliating bark of mature Persian Ironwoods is visible in winter and bunches of intricate crimson blossoms hang from bare branches long before most plants have started their spring show. The Persian Ironwood is a slow but rewarding grower eventually reaching 40’x40’ and makes a stately specimen.
Recommended varieties. Vanessa (Parrotia persica ‘Vanessa’) is a selection with more upright growth. A good choice for smaller spaces. Spread is only 20.’
Caveats. Persian Ironwoods can be sold as single or multiple trunk trees. Additional pruning may be required for to keep a single trunk. For best color, plant in full sun but Ironwoods will tolerate part shade. Hardy in USDA Zones 4-8.
Variegated Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera ‘Aureomarginatum’)
Spotlight. This is a majestic Tulip Tree variety with uniquely shaped variegated leaves and tulip shaped flowers.
Why you should plant it. The leaves of the Variegated Tulip tree are somewhat reminiscent of oak leaves and sport golden edges in spring that slowly change to bright green—contrasting with the dark green centers. Chartreus and yellow tulip-shaped flowers bloom in mid-summer high up in the branches. Little Sunspot Hosta—with yellow centers and dark green edges—would make a great understory plant to complement the binary color scheme. This large tree can make an excellent shade tree and will eventually reach a height of 70’ and spread of 30.’
Caveats. The Variegated Tulip Tree can grow in full sun, part shade, or open shade. Prefers moist, well-drained soil but can withstand drought in summer once established and infrequent standing water in winter. USDA Zones 5-9.
Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
Spotlight. Dawn Redwood is an unusual conifer with fernlike and deciduous foliage. This dramatic specimen makes an impression in any garden or lawn.
Why you should plant it. The combination of statuesque trunk and feathery foliage make the Dawn Redwood a truly unusual and dramatic specimen in the yard. Fast-growing and adaptable, this tree would make an exceptional selection for open spaces or under planted with shade plants like sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) and Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra). In spring, fernlike, bright-green foliage is produced from the bare branches that turn stunning coppery tones in autumn. In winter, the rusty-tinged bark of the Dawn Redwood is visible. At maturity, Dawn Redwoods can eventually reach a height of 120’ and a spread of 35.’
Recommended varieties. Gold Rush Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’) is an excellent golden variety that will brighten the landscape.
Caveats. Prefers moist, well-drained foliage but once established, can withstand drought and standing water. Best grown in full sun. USDA Zones 5-8.