I live in the Scarborough Bluffs, just over Lake Ontario. I have been trying for several years to get an ornamental tree/shrub to grow in my front yard without success. The spot where it will go is east facing with well drained soil over clay. It gets sun for virtually the whole day. I have tried an Aurora Dogwood and Eastern Redbud and was looking at a Chinese Dogwood (Cornus Kousa). Am I doomed to commit the same error again or is this hardy enough to survive?
The three small trees you have already tried are all considered hardy in your Toronto area, providing they are subject to the right conditions. I’m sorry they didn’t succeed for you.
Is it possible that on your front lawn, the trees are being stressed and dessicated by strong lake winds?
Were they regularly watered after being planted until they were well-established – for at least 2 years? Were their roots getting regular watering and nutrition in your sandy top part of soil?
Were they given some burlap protection against winter sun scorch and icy winds?
Is the clay beneath the sand hard-packed or was it dug and mixed with the sand to provide a better environment for a young tree/shrub’s expanding root system?
Was the tree root ball planted at the exact same level as it was when in its nursery potted condition?
These are all questions that might lead you to an answer to the demise of your previous trees. Below, you will find a few suggestions for different trees that you could try.
Our native serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis, makes a lovely multi-stemmed specimen tree but can be pruned to a single stem. It has flowers in the spring, has colourful fall foliage and birds love the berries in winter.
The native ninebark shrub, Physocarpus, of which the variety ‘Diablo’ has purple leaves and pinkish flowers in late spring and can grow to about 8 feet if well-nourished.
There are many different lilacs that come in large shrub or dwarf tree form, Syringa vulgaris, is a good one or you could consider the later-blooming Japanese lilac, Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’.
There are many hardy small crabapple trees, with lovely spring blossoms. One attractive example which is vigorous, is Malus “Red Jade”, an attractive weeping variety.
Whatever you decide to try next, be sure to research its needs thoroughly before planting and account for them. For additional ideas, look around your neighbourhood to see which ornamental trees are thriving in your area.
Good luck with your next (and final) choice of tree.