City of Toronto Tree on my small front lot


I have a small (approx 15′ x 15′) front lot on which I have cultivated a butterfly and bee friendly garden and on which the City plans to plant a tree this spring. I’d prefer something slow growing that will not throw too much shade and preferably with interesting foliage and/or flowers. I am supposed to choose from their list but am willing to purchase something (else) if they’ll let me and would welcome your thoughts. Many thanks!


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

From your description it sounds as if you have a lovely front garden and I understand why you would want more of an open canopy tree so that it won’t cast too much shade on your pollinator garden.

From the City of Toronto’s tree list  my choice would be Yellowwood. Yellowwood (Cladastris kentukea) is a North American native tree, and has a fairly open,vase-shaped canopy, compound leaves that turn yellow in the fall, and the white flowers in spring will come at maturity. It grows to about 12m, but it does spread to 10m, when mature. It is a lovely specimen tree, and suitable for a small lot.

Another tree to consider is serviceberry. Serviceberry also known as Saskatoonberry, or Juneberry (Amelanchier sp.) are usually shrubs, but there are several that grow to tree height.  All are native to Canada, and are cold hardy. Amelanchier canadensis is a small tree, about 8m, with a spread of 3m. The shape is oval and the branching has an airy feel, so does not provide dense shade. Underplanting is easy with these trees. All bloom in spring, with whispy, white flowers that become reddish to black fruit, attractive to birds. The fall colour is orange-red – like a sunset. It is a lovely choice for a four season tree, and quite suitable for a small lot.

We receive numerous requests for information on small specimen trees, just type small specimen trees into the search bar located on the right side of the page to see all of our archived posts. The following links are just a few that can be found on our website: Small Specimen TreesTrees for small spaces,.

The following websites may also be of interest: Four Small Trees for Small Yards, Urban-tolerant trees for small to mid-sized plots. 

To see these trees, and many others, I would recommend a jaunt to the Toronto Botanical Gardens. The advantage there, is that most plants, shrubs and trees are labelled, so you know what you are looking at.

Good luck with your choice, whichever you choose will enhance your garden.