Gardeners in Montana may not have as wide a choice of flowering trees as gardeners in the warmer climates do, but the trees that are available will make a dramatic statement in any garden plan. Plant flowering trees where they can be seen and appreciated--on the front lawn as a specimen plant, for shade by a patio or in the yard where they can be seen from the house.
Redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea) is a deciduous tree that grows from 6 to 10 feet tall and just about as wide. The medium- to dark-green leaves are oval shaped, grow from 2 to 5 inches long and 1 to 2 1/2 inches wide and become purple-red in the fall. The white flowers appear in May and June, growing in clusters from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter and producing fruit that is white to pale blue in August and September. Plant redosier dogwood in full sun or a very light shade and a moist soil. The plant is hardy in all of Montana.
Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria) is also known as smoke bush, Venetian sumac, European smoketree, fustet and Hungarian fustic and is a member of the cashew family. The tree grows from 15 to 30 feet tall and produces green, oval-shaped leaves that grow from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long that turn yellow, orange, purple and red in the fall. The flowers are complex, appearing in early summer as small yellow-green blooms growing in clusters that are surrounded by long pink filaments that make the flowers look like soft-pink clouds. The flowers produce small, brown, kidney-shaped berries. Plant the smoketree in full sun to get the best color out of the leaves, but the plant will survive in partial shade as well. The tree prefers a soil that is moist and well-drained, but never wet. Smoketree is hardy in USDA Zone 5 in Montana in the western part of the state.
Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) grows from 15 to 20 feet tall and about the same in width. The tree produces oblong, silver-gray leaves that grow from 2 to 4 inches long, small flowers that are white, cream or gray and small round or oval yellow fruit that is a food source for local birds. Plant Russian olive in full sun and a soil that is dry to moist and well drained. The tree is hardy in all of Montana except for small areas in Zone 2.