Picking a Native Tree

(Question)

Hi,

I live in North East Scarborough and I want to plant a tree this spring in my backyard. It seems to have low sunlight as the garden faces north and there is also a literal house right in front of the back yard. I also want a native edible fruit tree that blooms gorgeous flowers. We do not want it to be an extremely massive tree with roots that eat up any garden space since we want to plant many other plants as well. Are there any you can recommend?

Looking forward to hearing from you!
Thank you,
Vaishnavi

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners

There are several small native trees that may be suitable for your backyard space.  Your north facing garden may be a challenge for a tree that bears larger fruit as these generally require full exposure to sunlight.  Such fruit trees can also be challenging to grow as they require a lot of care and pruning.  The Toronto Botanical Gardens has a short article about growing fruit trees that you may find of interest.  See https://torontobotanicalgarden.ca/blog/botanical-buzz/10-secrets-growing-fruit-trees/

A few small native flowering trees that may be suitable for your space are listed below.   Each have smaller fruit and may be more tolerant of shade.

Amelanchier or Serviceberry is a small tree growing 5-8 metres that produces clusters of flowers in spring and small edible berries in summer.  It has showy fall foliage.  This tree grows in a variety of conditions including shade.

Viburnum lentago or Nannyberry has white flowers and fruit that grows in hanging clusters.  It will grow well in full shade and can be pruned to keep as a small tree or shrub.

Prunus virginiana or Chokecherry will grow in part shade to a tree of 4-10 metres.  It has white flowers in spring and small red cherries in late summer that are often used in jellies and preserves.

A very good source for native plants including trees and shrubs is published by the Ontario Native Plant Council and can be downloaded from this site: https://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/resources/grow-me-instead/  This guide has more information on the 3 trees listed above.

Toronto Master Gardeners has a guide on how to plant a tree which you may also want to consult.  It covers such things as when to plant, soil amendments, planting depth, staking and watering.  https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/gardeningguides/planting-a-tree-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/

This guide to flowering trees and shrubs may also give you some ideas: https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/gardeningguides/blooming-deciduous-trees-and-shrubs-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/

Good luck with your planning and spring planting!