Small Yards Do Not Mean Small Choices When It Comes To Trees!

Small Yards Do Not Mean Small Choices When It Comes To Trees row homes street small tree

Our family moved into a new yard in 2010 – your typical suburban Winnipeg (St James) property. A real bonus was that there was no trees at all in the front yard – none! Working with an empty canvas like this was a real bonus as there was no older ‘bad’ landscaping to undo first.

Before considering what shrubs and perennials to plant, we decided to plant the trees first. We planted trees to eliminate unpleasant views in the neighborhood such as utility boxes, neighbor’s driveway, etc. If you view your yard from a particular window(s), make sure that these views (as seen from inside your home) are also enhanced by the placement of your trees.

In our case, after the trees were planted, then, we located the flow of beds in such a way that the trees became the ‘anchor’ position in the beds. We dug the beds far enough away from the tree trunks to accommodate various shrubs and perennials that we would choose later.

Small Yards Do Not Mean Small Choices When It Comes To Trees Female gardener planting tree.

Trees are one of the stalwarts of any urban property, large or small. Trees enhance our quality of life by bringing serenity and privacy, assist with moderating climate, improving air quality, conserving water and offering wildlife habitat. If your own piece of urban prairie landscape is a small yard you might think your choices are limited. Well, I think that defeatist attitude is unfounded. In this article, we’ll explore a number of deciduous tree options for the space-challenged urban home owner on the prairies.

Shade trees help us to create a sense of intimacy in the yard, as well as help protect the home from the sun's blinding rays and make it easier to open the windows and blinds. If the yard is small, though, it can be difficult to find a shade tree that doesn't interfere with power lines, satellite dishes and other home essentials. Fortunately, there are options available.

Amur Maple
Amur Maple is grown as either a small single trunk or multi-stemmed tree. Attractive, glossy green leaves in summer give way to intense fall shades of crimson-red. The branches have an Asian flavour.

Korean Maple
This small ornamental tree has bronze-green lobed foliage turning a blend of orange, red and yellow in fall. Matures at about 20’ height x 12’ spread. The grey bark and branching gives it a Japanese maple characteristic.

Hot Wings® Maple
This is quickly becoming one of the most popular, sought-after trees in prairie gardens! A graceful, upright tree with a bit of a spreading habit.  Mature height is about 20’. Little yellow flowers are followed by brilliant red samaras (seeds) that linger for a good part of the summer! These hot-red samara’s are the source of this great tree’s name and popularity!

Dakota Pinnacle® Birch
Dakota Pinnacle has all of the best features of birch magnified! It’s bark turns white and exfoliates earlier than Paper Birch. The dark green leaves turn intense yellow in fall. It is one of the taller trees (26’) that I’d recommend for smaller yards, but because it matures at only 7-8’ wide, I think it is still an excellent choice.

Snowbird Hawthorn & Toba Hawthorn
Typical mature height is about 16-20’ and 13-16’ wide. ‘Snowbird’ has a cloud of white flowers in spring, followed by a sparse amount of red fruits in fall. ‘Snowbird’ has a very straight trunk with a neat symmetrical crown. ‘Toba’ has a unique twisted form to its trunk that is quite appealing. The flowers on ‘Toba’ are white with definite pink overtones.

Dreamweaver Columnar Crabapple
A beautiful narrow accent feature tree that is just perfect for today’s smaller yards. Bright pink, spring blooms smother the tree from top to bottom. Glossy purplish-green foliage lasts all season. Small purplish apples cling tightly near the centre of the tree. Mature height is about 12-15’, and only spreads to 3-4’ wide!

Gladiator® Crabapple
Glossy purplish-green foliage, vibrant pink flowers in spring and glossy purple-green leaves! This is a great option for replacing Shubert Chokecherry. ‘Gladiator’ has a very pleasing upright, conical shape that takes up very little yard space, growing to only 20’ height and 7-9’ wide.

Ivory Silk Lilac
This is another tree that some may consider a bit large for what is considered a small prairie garden, but well worth mentioning anyway. Mature height is about 23’ and width of 16’. An oval-shaped tree with very dark cherry-like bark. The flowers are borne in early summer (not spring), and appear as giant plumes of creamy with a wonderful fragrance!

The amazing plant search engine on is a terrific resource for learning more about these (and other) tree varieties for your prairie home.

Happy Gardening!

For more ideas ask your local garden center professionals and make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest for other help tips and hints.


Guest post by Jan - Bylands Account Representative

I’m very proud of my 4 children.  All 4 of them, worked many summers in the garden centre, they love plants and gardening too – but opted for totally different careers.  You can sometimes find Jan as a guest on ‘The Gardener’, a radio progam in Winnipeg on Sundays.