Abies (Fir)

True firs (Abies spp.) will often have tiny resin pockets in their bark. Their cones stand upright on the topmost branches covered in aromatic, 1-inch leaves. The Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is not a true fir. More often than not these trees are used as wonderful potted Christmas trees. Most of these trees are slow going (3-6 inches a year). They usually get 50-60ft tall and 15-30ft wide.

Cercis (Eastern Redbud)

Eastern redbuds are small deciduous trees; that typically grow 20 feet tall and wide with gracefully ascending branches that has a rounded shape. They can be multi trunked or single trunked trees. In the spring the branches are covered in small sweet pea like, pink to reddish purple flowers. After the flowers are spent; long green snap pea like pods form. Following the springtime flowers, Eastern redbuds heart-shaped Leaves emerge reddish, most turn green as they expand some stay a brilliant burgundy.  

Cedrus (Cedar)

Cedar (Cedrus) –

True cedars (Cedrus spp.) have dense clusters of evergreen needles from stout, woody pegs with barrel-shaped cones that sit on top of the branches. Most cedars are upright and conical but there are a few such as the Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar that are more spreading or are dwarfed.

False Cedar

False cedar refers to several different genera's of conifers that share common characteristics. They feature small, overlapping, scale-like leaves (this is how you know they're not a true Cedar); small, upright cones that remain on the tree; and aromatic wood. Examples of false cedars include Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), and Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata).

Chionanthus retusus (Chinese fringe tree)

An Asian native commonly known as a Chinese fringetree; with the native U.S. species (C. virginicus), is noted for its profuse spring bloom of mildly fragrant white or flowers. Clusters (about 4” long) of pure white “fringe” like petals flower in late spring to early summer.  Plants are primarily dioecious, meaning there are male and female plants. Male flowers are a little more showy than female flowered plants. If a female plant is pollinized, they will have clusters of dark blue to black olive-like fruits (each to 1/2” long) that ripen in late summer/fall. Fringe trees are most often seen as a large, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub growing from 10-20’ tall with a broad, round form. It also may be grown as a small tree. Leaves are bright green on top and whitish green with a downy feel below. Leaves on young plants have serrated margins. Fall color is yellow to orange; and their bark is an attractive rough gray-brown so there is always interest in the winter.

Chamaecyparis (False Cypress)

False Cypress (Chamaecyparis) –

These conifers are medium to large evergreen trees growing from 65 to 230 feet (20 – 70 m) tall, with foliage in flat sprays. The leaves have two different types, needle-like leaves are present on young seedlings up to a year old, and scale-like adult leaves. The upright cones are round to oval, with 8 to 14 scales that remain on the tree. The wood and leaves are aromatic. Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) is a very popular bonsai tree due to its ornate nature.

Cornus (Dogwood)

Flowering dogwoods are deciduous, multi-branched shrub or small tree; characterized by a rounded canopy and horizontal branches that spread wider than its height (15 to 30 ft tall). Leaves are oblong that comes to a point, foliage turns red-orange to purple in Fall. The center of the flower is a small yellow cluster that is surrounded by 4 large white (pink or red) bracts. Each bract has a rounded notch on the outer edge. Flowers appear between March and June, with or before the leaves, and persist for 2 to 4 weeks. The fruit is yellow to red, berrylike pods that contain one to two cream-colored seeds (fruits ripen in September and October). The bark on mature trees have and alligator effect because it is broken into small square blocks.

Common Shapes of Conifers

Conifers are trees and shrubs that possess needle-like or scale-like leaves that are "evergreen" and cones. Conifer means cone-bearing; while trees that bear cones are coniferous, many of these cones can be completely different from one species to another. Some cones stand atop of the branches and some hang gracefully, although some, such as yew and juniper, have modified cones that closely resemble berries instead of the traditional cone look. The terms conifer and evergreen are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Evergreens also include broadleaf evergreens such as Magnolia grandiflora, Rhododendrons, Euonymus and Boxwood. Although conifers may lose their needles periodically; most are indeed evergreen with a few exceptions, such as the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) and Larch (Larix spp.) that are deciduous. Meaning they lose their “leaves” in the fall. Conifers are known for their wonderful smell and are sometimes even used for making tea, baking or cooking with! Nothing smells better than a conifer releasing that sweet forest aroma.


Natural shapes of conifers can be categorized in a few ways:

Prostrate or creeping - often used for groundcover, this category includes mostly junipers.


Spreading – the plant is wider than it is tall, this category includes many junipers and cultivars of most other conifer varieties. Can be used as a hedge or specimen planting.


Globose or round - dwarf conifers that have a short, round, shrub like form.


Upright conical or pyramidal – this is your typical “Christmas tree” shape. Some conifers have this form when they’re young and then grow into a different form with age. Used mostly as a specimen planting can be used as a wind screen.


Upright narrow or columnar - tall and narrow growth habit that typically is used as a wind screen or as a single specimen planting.

Crataegus (Hawthorn)

Hawthorns are attractive deciduous trees that consists of hundreds of varieties. Although most mature hawthorns grow to heights of 15- 30 ft, some varieties can be used as shrubs; while other ones can reach heights of 45 ft.  A Hawthorn is distinguished by its sharp, woody thorns and dark green serrated leaves. The tree is covered with clusters of flowers of pink or white (depending on the variety) in mid-spring. Following the flowers is a small, red or less commonly yellow apple-like fruit, often called thorn apples or haws, ripen in autumn. Crataegus aestivalis, the eastern mayhaw, and C. opaca, the western mayhaw fruits are commonly used for jellies in the south. Fall colors are usually yellow but there are some varieties turn brilliant a shade of orange-bronze in autumn.

Cupressus (Cypress)

Cypress (Cupressus) –

Cypress (Cupressus spp.) have very tiny, scale-like leaves that can potentially be sharp and/or pointed. Cypress cones are small (about 1/2 inch in diameter), round, and woody. These trees are fast growers and can make good wind screens. Trees can get upwards of 80ft tall but most mature at 40-50ft tall. The Wilma Goldcrest is a dwarf variety that gets 8ft tall and 3ft wide.

Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree)

Liriodendron tulipifera, commonly called a tulip tree which is named for its tulip like flowers; is a large deciduous tree that typically grows 60-90' (has been found to get 150’) tall with a broad conical habit. Trunks of mature trees can reach upwards of 4-6’ in diameter, with the canopy starting 10-15 above the ground. Distinctive four lobed brilliant green leaves (up to 8” across) emerge in the spring and turn golden in fall. Flowers are yellow with a band of orange on the base of each petal; flowers are 2” in length, it’s not uncommon that the flowers go unnoticed on large trees because their leaves are fully developed by the time they bloom. Flowers are followed by scaly, dry, cone-shaped brown fruits, each with numerous winged seeds.

Juniperus (Juniper)

Juniper (Juniperus) –

Juniper (Juniperus spp.) leaves may be needle-like, scale-like or both, and they have a very distinctive, pungent odor. They produce berry like cones that have a silvery blue flesh. Plants can range from low growing groundcover, small shrubs and large trees such as the Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). The can range in color green, yellow tipped or blue and some will turn hues of purple in the winter (Juniperus horizontalis 'Youngstown').


Magnolia grandiflora –

Magnolia grandiflora are broadleaf evergreen trees that are prized for their attractive glossy, dark green leaves (with pale green to grayish brown underneath) with extremely large fragrant flowers. The most commonly grown Magnolia grandifloras grow in between 60-80’ tall with either a pyramidal canopy or a rounded crown. The fragrant white flowers (to 8-12” diameter) usually have six petals, they bloom in late spring and continue to sparsely flower throughout the summer. Spherical cone-like fruiting clusters (to 3-5” long) remain on the tree until they mature in late summer to early fall, releasing individual red coated seeds.

Magnolia (spp.) –

Deciduous Magnolias consists of many different species (trees forms and shrubs) in addition to numerous hybrids and cultivars. Most plants feature showy, sometimes fragrant flowers (most commonly white, yellow, pink or purple) which bloom in early spring, large simple leaves emerge in late spring to summer. Most deciduous Magnolias get about 25 – 40 ft tall and about 15-20ft wide.

Picea (Spruce)

Spruce (Picea) –

Spruce (Picea spp.) have rigid, sharp, 1-inch needles that grow out of tiny wooden pegs. They appear very similar to fir trees, but the needles are stiffer, and spruce cones hang down rather than standing up on top of the branch. Their whorled branches resemble pine trees. These trees can get 60-180ft tall and are usually conical. There are some weeping and dwarf varieties.

Malus (Flowering Crab Apple)

There are approximately 1000 different flowering apple, of which only about 100 are commonly planted. These trees vary in mature size, growth habit, flower color, and the size/color of fruit. Crabapple blossoms appear in April to May, depending on variety and elevation. Some crabapple varieties bloom relatively early, others bloom mid- season and some bloom towards the end of crabapple season. The length of the blossoming period can range from 1 to 2 weeks, all of this depends on the variety and weather conditions. Crabapple flower buds are attractive even before they open, developing color even before they fully open. Some varieties of crabapple have showy fall leaf color, ranging from yellow, orange, red and/or purple. Crabapple twig and bark color ranges from green to yellow to reddish brown when young.  Many crabapples develop attractive mottled bark as they mature.

Pinus (Pine)

Pine (Pinus) –

Pines (Pinus spp.) include over 100 different species. Pines is the most common type of conifer. Their long, narrow needles are bound in bundles of two, three or five on branches that grow in rings known as “whorls”. Each whorl represents a year's growth. These trees can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Pines can be a small shrub such as the Mugo Pine (Pinus Mugo) to a huge Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana) reaching 180ft tall (the tallest sugar pine on record is 209ft tall). Bonsai are frequently done out of pine as well as topiary plants.

Natural shapes of Flowering Trees

Flowering trees play an important role in a garden design, providing bursts of spring color long before the rest of the garden is awake. They allow the beholder to enjoy their lovely blooms and sweet fragrance without having to be at ground level. And once all the blooms are finished, their brilliant floral display gives way to interesting leaf shapes, colorful berries, and vibrant fall color. Flowering trees are also a long-lasting investment. By practicing a little care and common sense, you will be rewarded with a seasonal show of color year after year.

Natural shapes of Flowering Trees:

Weeping - A weeping tree is where the growth habit makes branches or leaves droop downward, creating an elegant profile. The growth habit of these trees is usually a result of a mutation and will not come true to form from seeds. Most of these trees are grafted.

Upright/Standard – Standard or upright trees can be grown on their own roots; but usually they are grafted onto a different rootstock. Either method shouldn’t stunt the tree from reaching the mature height for its species.


Sequoia (Sequoia and Sequoiadendron)-


Giant sequoia

(Sequoiadendron giganteum), are often confused with coastal redwoods but they differ significantly. They have shorter scale like needles with 1 ½ inch woody, egg-shaped cones that are extremely hard. In its native habitat, mature trees will grow to 200-275ft tall and produce a trunk diameter ranging from 15-20ft wide. These trees can live for thousands of years!! 

Coastal Redwood

(Sequoia sempervirens) The leaves off the main shoots are spirally arranged, scale-like, and held closely to the branches; leaves off the lateral shoots are spreading, needle-like, and arranged in two rows. Their 1-inch cones have thick wrinkled scales. This Sequoia is considered the tallest growing tree, growing upward of 350ft tall and having a trunk of 20-25ft wide. Although these trees are fast growing in their native habitat they still take almost 400 years to mature!

Oxydendrum arboretum (Sourwood)

Sourwood or “Sorrel Tree” is a deciduous tree that have acidic soil preferences; it typically grows 20-25’ tall with a slender trunk and narrow oblong crown. The gray bark on mature trees is ridged, scaly and fissured. Glossy green leaves are finely toothed (5-8” long) and resemble that of a peach; foliage produces a consistent fall color, typically turning crimson red. The leaves have a sour taste, thus the common name. Waxy, white flowers that are slightly fragrant hang on slender, one-sided terminal panicles that have a Pieris look; blooming in early summer. Flowers are very attractive to bees and Sourwood honey is delicious. Flower stems remains in place as the flowers turn into 5-parted silver-gray, dry seed capsule that ripen in September. The silver capsules have a beautiful contrast against the red fall color, providing interest well into the winter.

Taxus (Yew)

Yew leaves are waxy dark green on top and light green underneath that are distinctively pointed but not sharp. Yew cones are on the female plants only; they look like soft, bright red berries. The male ‘flowers’ appear in February/March and start as Brussels sprout looking growths that turn into pale yellow sacs before opening to release the pollen.

Prunus (Flowering Cherry / Plum)

Flowering Cherry -

Flowering cherry trees are extremely versatile and will fit in with numerous garden styles including Asian gardens, Zen gardens, cottage gardens and country gardens. In late March through mid to late April these trees will produce profuse amounts of flowers. The blossoms can change color, when the buds emerge, they are a dark pink, turning a lighter pink when the blossoms open, then eventually turning a pale pink or creamy white. There are some varieties that will display wonderful fall foliage that turns purple, red, and oranges.

Flowering Plum -

Flowering plums are a small to medium-sized ornamental tree native to Asia. Purple-leaved cultivars, such as the popular Thundercloud (Prunus cerasifera), are more common in the home landscape because of its beautiful red leaves and smaller growing habit. These trees grow in full sunlight to partial shade and will tolerate mild coastal conditions. Flowering plums do not do well in a site that gets a lot of wind, as this can be damaging to the leaves and upper branches. Flowering plums are one of the earliest blooming trees that attracts bees with its delicately fragrant pink blossoms, and birds with its small, fleshy red fruits. The fruit is edible

Albizia julibrissin (Mimosa Tree)

The Persian Silk tree a colorful landscape tree, noted for its fern leaf leaves and deep, rosy-pink, fluffy summer flowers. Quickly reaches 30 ft. tall and wide. This tree creates an exotic canopy of dappled shade as a multi trunk tree; it loves subtropical, tropical climates and hot, humid climates. Leaves turn yellow in the fall.


Stewartias are lovely woodland trees that are slow-growing, and gorgeous in all seasons from showing off fresh oblong, dark green foliage (3" long) in spring, white flowers in May-June, brilliant reddish-orange and burgundy leaves in autumn, reddish brown bark in the winter. These trees make wonderful specimen trees or as a backdrop to a woodland garden. Stewartias should not be placed in hot areas and will be happiest with afternoon shade. Most single trunk trees will end up growing 20-40ft tall, multi trunked Stewartias will grow to about 12ft tall.  The white flowers resemble a Camellia (2.5" diameter) with showy orange-yellow anthers appearing in early summer. Stewartia, Camellia and Franklinia are all members of the tea family.


Catalpa is a medium to large, deciduous tree that typically grows 40-70’ tall with an irregular, open to narrow oval canopy. Broad oblong leaves (12” long) are pointed at the tips and rounded to cordate at the bases. Leaves are light green to yellow green; foliage turns a golden yellow in Fall. Orchid like flowers on panicles (2” long) are white with purple and yellow spotted throat begin to appear in late spring. Flowers give way to long slender green seedpods (12-22” long). The seedpods mature in fall to dark brown which bare the resemblance of a thin cigars; giving the Catalpa it’s common name of cigar tree. Bark of mature trees is cracked with prominently pale grayish brown ridged.

Styrax japonicus (Japanese/ Chinese Snowbell Tree)

Japanese snowbell are deciduous, compact flowering trees with horizontal branching and a rounded crown. They typically grow 20-30’ tall and wide; oval shaped, glossy, medium to dark green leaves (3” long). Fall color is not very interesting but the leaves may occasionally turn yellow or red. It is known best for its weeping clusters of bell-shaped, waxy white flowers with a slight fragrance (each 3/4” in diameter) that bloom from mid-May through June. Flowers give way to olive colored, round seeds that often stay on the tree until late autumn. Gray bark cracks on older branches to show off its orange inner bark which can be quite attractive in winter.