Some flowering trees, such as the crabapple, also add fragrance to the garden.

Small Trees for a Border Garden

by Linsay Evans

Small, ornamental trees -- or trees that grow less than 35 feet tall -- add color, texture and interest to a border garden without overwhelming the space. Small trees create shaded spots for your children to play, as well as providing food and shelter for animals such as birds and butterflies. Many small trees also bloom with attractive flowers, bear fruits or have colorful fall foliage, adding even more aesthetic value to your border garden. When choosing trees for your yard, pick child-safe, non-toxic varieties.


For showy white flowers that bloom in late winter, plant a tea-oil camellia (Camellia oleifera). This evergreen grows from 10 to 20 feet tall and has dark, lustrous leaves, offset by large white flowers with yellow centers. It's hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 to 9 and prefers acidic, well-draining soil. Lend a breath of fresh pink color to your spring border with a "Pink Chimes" Japanese snowball (Styrax japonicus "Pink Chimes"). Reaching heights of 25 feet, this small deciduous tree blooms with large clusters of pink blossoms. Japanese snowballs are hardy in USDA zones 6 to 8 and grow well in well-draining soil with an acidic pH.


For edible fruits, plant a brush cherry (Syzygium australe). This Australian native grows to 35 feet tall with dense, glossy foliage that can be pruned into a screen or hedge. After blooming with green-white spring flowers, this tree produces large pink and yellow fruits. Hardy in USDA zones 9 to 10, the brush cherry thrives in moist, alkaline soil and tolerates sun or shade. Crabapple hybrids (Malus) produce edible fruits in summer that may attract birds to your border and bloom with fragrant flowers in spring. Crabapples grow to 20 feet tall and are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8. Varieties include "Red Jade," a white-flowering, red-fruiting tree, and "Hopa," which produces pink flowers and orange-red fruits.

Fall Foliage

For brilliant fall color, plant an "Autumn Glory" hawthorn (Crataegus "Autumn Glory"). This deciduous tree has dark foliage that turns red and orange as the weather cools. It reaches up to 25 feet tall and is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9. This hawthorn prefers sunny sites and tolerates a range of soil types and pH levels. The "Cardinal Royal" mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia "Cardinal Royal") also fills the autumn border with red and orange color. This 25-foot-tall tree is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7 and prefers moist, acidic soil. Its canopy of small, gray-green leaves casts light shade for an airy look.

Year-Round Foliage

For a partially or fully shaded border, plant a yennan camellia (Camellia reticulata). This Chinese native grows to 20 feet tall and is hardy in USDA zones 7 and 8. Its lustrous foliage lasts year-round and contrasts with its red-pink spring flowers. Yennan camellias grow best in moist, acidic soil. The Chinese holly or holly-leaf osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus) has dark, serrated foliage. It grows slowly to 20 feet tall and bears black fruits that attract birds. This evergreen tree is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9 and thrives in a range of site conditions, including clay soil and drought.

About the Author

Based in the Southwest, Linsay Evans writes about a range of topics, from parenting to gardening, nutrition to fitness, marketing to travel. Evans holds a Master of Library and Information Science and a Master of Arts in anthropology.

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