Small ornamental tree for city backyard


I want to plant a small ornamental tree in my back garden.  I live in Toronto (Leslieville) in a small semi-detached house, my back garden is 15ft wide and 40ft long facing west backing into a lane way.  My neighbor next door has a fully matured Ash tree that provides shade, so any option should be able to thrive ‘under’ a larger tree.  I was considering Eastern Redbud, Prunus Serrulata (Japanese Cherry).  I also love (but don’t know the name) the tree that is common in downtown Toronto that produces dappled shadow such as the ones you find (along with Gingko trees) in Oscar Peterson Place (i.e. TD Center park with cows).  Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.


The trees you mentioned as possible small ornamental tree additions to your garden are all lovely.

Both Cercis Canadensis (Easter Redbud) and Prunus serrulata (Japanese Cherry) tolerate partial shade which means they need about 4 hours of sun each day.

I am not sure of the type of tree that grows in Oscar Peterson Place but here are some other shade tolerant suggestions:

1. Amelanchier (Serviceberry) a native shrub with an airy growth habit which produces starry white flowers in May and red berries at the end of June.  These berries are edible but you may have to scramble to get them before the birds.

2. Flowering dogwoods such as Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda dogwood) might be a good choice depending on how much space you have.  It is a native plant, will grow in deep shade, has a layered growth habit which makes it quite interesting and it produces white flowers in June.  The other Dogwood is Cornus kousa (Kousa dogwood) which comes in two varieties – solid green leaf or variegated leaf.  These will produce white flowers in June but can also be found in a variety which produces pink flowers.

Just some words of caution, when choosing a tree for an urban yard, it is advisable to research how big the tree will become when mature.  Also, planting it in a location away from any building structures (houses, fence, neighbours garage), or service accesses (hydro, water, sewer, gas), may alleviate problems in years to come.

For more information about small ornamental trees for shade areas please review the following sites: