Tree Solutions: Shade and Ornamental

There are shade trees and ornamental trees. How does Chalet differentiate?


Generally 30’ or taller at maturity, and are enjoyed for their aesthetic presence as much as the cooling effect of their foliage canopy (fall color is always a nice bonus, too). Overwhelmingly, they are grown as single-trunk specimens.

Rapid growth rate: Quaking Aspen, Baldcypress, Paper Birch, River Birch, Elm varietiesHoneylocust, ‘Autumn Blaze’ Maple, Exclamation™ Planetree, Northern Red Oak

Native: American Hornbeam, American Linden, Baldypress, Paper Birch, River Birch, many Oaks, Red/ Scarlet Maple, Sugar Maple, Planetree, Sweetgum, Tulip: Tree/Poplar

Provide filtered shade: Paper Birch, River Birch, Dawn Redwood, Honeylocust

Fall color: Baldcypress, Paper Birch, Black Gum, Ginkgo, Katsura Tree, Maples, some Oaks, Sweet Gum 

Bark character: Beech, Paper Birch, River Birch, Hornbeam, Planetree, Scarlet Maple 

Floodplain (will tolerate periods of standing surface water): Baldcypress, River Birch, Swamp White Oak, Willow

Colorful foliage: many European Beech varieties, Birch Royal Frost®, Sunburst® Honeylocust, Dawn Redwood ‘Gold Rush’, Maple varieties: ‘Eskimo Sunset’, Royal Red, Variegated 

Columnar for narrow sites or tall screening: Many European Beech varieties, Dakota PInnacle® & Parkland Pillar ™ White Birch, Ginkgo Princeton Sentry®, columnar/fastigiate varieties of American & European Hornbeam, ‘Red Fox’ Katsura Tree, ‘Boulevard’ Linden, Regal Prince® English Oak, ‘Slender Silhouette’ Sweetgum

Under-utilized, often overlooked: Hybrid Elms, American Hornbeam Firespire™, Katsura Tree, Dawn Redwood ‘Gold Rush’  


Ornamental trees usually in the 10-25’ mature height range, and are grown principally for one or more seasons of visual interest- flowers, berries, bark character and fall color. A number are available as shrubby, multi-stemmed “clumps”, as well as single-trunk specimen trees.

That being said, the birches and flowering pears blur that distinction by getting more than 25’ tall while having multi-seasonal interest in addition to providing shade.

Dwarf (≤ 12-15’ tall at maturity): River Birch Tecumseh Compacta™, Crabapples (ex: ‘Sargent’, ‘Tina’), weeping cherries (pink or white-flowered), Magnolia ‘Royal Star’, Japanese Maples, Weeping Redbud ‘Covey’. Then, there are flowering shrubs that have been grown as single-trunk, but dwarf “trees”, some: Panicle Hydrangea varieties, Viburnums, dwarf Lilacs and Ninebark.

Native: American HornbeamRed Buckeye (A. pavia), Pagoda Dogwood, Redbud, Serviceberry

Colorful foliage: Crabapples: ‘Cardinal’, Gladiator™ & Royal Raindrops®, Variegated Chinese Dogwood ‘Wolf Eyes’, ‘Carnival’ Hedge Maple, Japanese and Gold Fullmoon Maples, many new Redbud varieties

Flower effect: Red Buckeye, Cornelian Cherry Dogwood, Chinese Dogwood, ornamental Cherries, Crabapples, Japanese Tree Lilac, Magnolia, ornamental Pears, Redbud, Serviceberry, Seven Son Flower (Heptacodium)

Ornamental Berries (edible for birds, too): Crabapples, Chinese Dogwood, Pagoda Dogwood, Serviceberry

Good fall color: Paperbark Maple, Japanese MaplesChinese Dogwood, some Crabapples, ‘Okame’ & ‘Kwanzan’ Cherries, ornamental Pears

Interesting bark character: Some ornamental Cherries, Hornbeams,  Japanese Tree Lilac Ivory Silk®, Magnolias, Paperbark Maple, Serviceberry, Stewartia 

Shade tolerant: Red Buckeye, Cornelian Cherry & Pagoda Dogwood, American Hornbeam, Asian/Japanese Maples, Redbud, Serviceberry 


Paperbark Maple - Cinnamon-mahogany, peeling bark, beautiful black-green leaves that fire scarlet-orange in the fall. Stunning 365!

Jack Frost® hybrid maples – The results of a cool breeding program from Iseli Nursery. They wanted to create a small maple that suggested the appearance of a Japanese Maple, but with more winter hardiness - to Zone 4. Green-leaved, but excellent texture and fall color. And they’re hardy even in exposed sites! 

  • Arctic Jade ® – 20’ tall, 15’ wide, finely dissected leaves 
  • Ice Dragon ® - 10’ tall, 15’ wide, elegantly willow-like leaves 
  • North Wind ® - 20’ tall, 15’ wide, leaves like std. Japanese maples. 

Gold Fullmoon Maple - Emerges glowing gold, softens to gold/chartreuse for the growing season. Gray bark is smooth and almost white.

American Hornbeam Firespire™- A lovely variety selected for its narrow habit and reliable red-orange fall color. 20’ tall, 10’ wide at maturity. Handsome toothed green summer foliage. With age develops the blue-gray bark that gives Hornbeam its common name of Musclewood. American Hornbeam tolerates considerable shade and really wet soils- a difficult site situation to find solutions for!  

Seven Son Flower- A really unique multi-trunked tree that reminds me of southern Crape-Myrtle with almost cream-colored architectural trunks. Handsome downward-facing green leaves. Tiny white late summer/early fall flowers are followed by rosy-purple seed capsules that are even showier than the spent flowers they represent!

Chalet Recommends for planting success: 

Amendments for soil incorporation: Compost, leaf mulch, cotton burr compost

Mulch: Shredded hardwood, pine or cedar bark, leaf or cotton burr 

Starter fertilizer: Espoma Biotone Root & Grow or Dr. Earth Root Zone Starter (granular) or Bonide Root & Grow (liquid)

Tony Fulmer

Chief Horticultural Officer