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Experiment with an Ornamental Tree!


by Sharon Faircloth
Living in the mountains, we’re lucky that we don’t often need or want to add trees to our landscape because much of our terrain already enjoys them naturally.  When I moved into my home 40 years ago, owners had to get approval from the HOA to remove a tree.  Now we understand the importance of defensible space and spacing for optimal tree health.

When adding to our beautiful landscape, natives should always be your first consideration.  They are already adapted to our climate, soil and moisture.  They require little or no pruning or fertilizing.  With proper site selection, native trees should thrive.  There are a number of Fact Sheets available to help you choose, plant and establish a new tree.
Russian Hawthorn (Photo by Sharon Faircloth)
If you want to try something ornamental and different, consider the Russian Hawthorn.  The Crataegus ambigua is a member of the Rosaceae family, a non-native but very hardy to Zone 4.  It will do very well in a sunny location with well draining soil.  It does well as a single ornamental or in groups.  It will grow from 14 to 20 feet high and up to 12 to 16 feet wide.  Once established, it should not require additional watering. 

It will mature into a tough tree with a gnarly, brownish gray trunk, the typical haw’thorns’, and green, lobed saw-tooth leaves.  In late spring, it is covered with pretty white blossoms and later in the summer with bright red berries.  The berries persist through the fall as the leaves change to a reddish golden color.  Often the berries will last into the winter providing visual interest for most of the year. 

Russian Hawthorn berries
Many years ago, in one of my many professional landscaping adventures, the landscaper planted a Russian Hawthorn in my front yard.  No instructions were given to me on how to care for the tree so it never received any care!  I share this because, in spite of being ignored, it grew into a lovely little tree.  It certainly looks better in years of more moisture but has survived many very dry years as well.  It’s not as large as many but the birds and bees enjoy it and, for the most part, the elk and deer do not bother it. 
Russian Hawthorn in bloom
If you’re looking for an ornamental to add to your landscape, consider Crataegus ambigua for a low-maintenance, long-living, visually interesting option!


Articles about choosing, planting and care for native trees
Fact Sheet 7.421

Differences on Hawthorns, Plant Talk 1767
Pretty Tough Plants, Timber Press, by The Experts at Plant Select

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