Hello. We have a new house in North Toronto that can benefit from two more trees on the front yard with full sun exposure.
The two trees will be 25′ apart. Initially we wanted a Japanese Red Maple but think too much sun might be a problem?
Also want a native tree. Or another species that is less insect or pest prone, grows fast, survives harsh weather and ideally turns red in fall. We would like to plant a bigger tree, around a 6″ D.
What species do you recommend?
Thank you very much for your help.
Thank-you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners with your question.
It is always to great to find people who are interested in planting trees! Also, great that you have some space. While we can definitely recommend some specific varieties, you may also want to check with the City of Toronto regarding their tree planting programme (free trees for the front yard). Please take a look at the link below if you were not already aware of this programme. Keep in mind as well that the City owns and controls the front allowance of your property. The link also includes a list of recommended native plants, including trees.
If you plan to proceed with your own planting you have many options available to you. As you noted, Japanese maples do not always do well in full sun. They tend to scorch if they are not offered a little protection from the afternoon sun. A different type of maple, but equally choice, is the Paperbark maple (Acer griseum). This is a true all-season tree, with beautiful peeling, cinnamon-coloured bark and lovely orange to red autumn colour. It does well in full sun. Of course, the Ontario native maple, Acer rubrum (Red maple) is another option. The fall colour is spectacular, but the tree will become much larger than the Paperbark maple and the roots tend to be very shallow.
A couple of trees that are native to Southern Ontario (the Carolinian forest) would suit your specifications: the Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) and the Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). The tulip tree quickly grows to be a large tree – considerably larger than the Japanese maple you had previously thought of. It produces yellow and orange tulip-shaped flowers in spring. It has distinctively shaped leaves which turn yellow in the fall. The Serviceberry is a smaller tree, but is native to eastern-central Canada, very attractive, and relatively trouble-free. It has frothy white flowers in spring (you can see them on the streets of Toronto now) and lovely grey-green leaves that turn shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall. A related cultivar, Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn brilliance’ has particulary brilliant red fall colour.
This link provides a list of trees native to Ontario: http://ontariotrees.com/main/alien_native.php?type=N
In the non-native category, a few options for large trees would be the Ginko (Ginkgo biloba) or the Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). The ginko is tough as nails. The leaves are distinctively fan-shaped and turn a clear yellow in fall. The leaves of the katsura are heart-shaped and emerge as a purply-red, turning golden yellow in fall.
The following link for Landscape Ontario gives a list of some of these, as well as other good choices for urban settings, and provides a factsheet for each of the varieties recommended:
Another non-profit program in Toronto that you should look at is Leaf. They will give you an assessment and recommendations for your space and will plant for you as well. https://www.yourleaf.org/
Good luck with your tree planting!