Designing a landscape filled with very small trees includes using both dwarf tree varieties as well as pruning large shrubs so they look more tree-like. Ranging in heights of 8 to 12 feet allows the gardener to find a variety of woody plants. Use multistemmed shrubs and dwarf trees for added visual interest.
No better tree exists for flowers in the heat of summer than the crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.). Two cultivated varieties in particular naturally reach a mature height of 10 feet, but with different habits. Tonto bears deep magenta flowers upon a multitrunked, vase-shaped plant. Acoma produces white flowers across a broad, rounded canopy with pendulous branches. Other small-growing or semi-dwarf crape myrtle selections warrant use in the small-scale landscape. Some authorities may call them "shrubs," but if lowest branches are pruned away, their tree-like form is readily maintained. Use 'Potomac,' 'Pink Velour,' 'Catawba,' 'Comanche,' 'Seminole' or 'Hopi,' making sure branch tips are pruned only lightly each spring, not severely cut back which causes lopsided and weak, scrawny branches. Grow crape myrtles in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness zones 7 through 10.
Much smaller growing than the American redbud, Chinese redbud (Cercis chinensis) grows only 8 to 12 feet tall with an oval, upright shape. Nothing beats the violet-rose floral display in mid-spring and the heart-shaped leaves. Grow it in USDA zones 6 though 8. Cultivars 'Avondale' and 'Don Egolf' make exceptional specimens, more so than the form of the wild species.'
Also sometimes called "shrubs," witchhazels (Hamamelis spp.) become upright, broadly V-shaped small trees over many years. They provide two seasons of visual splendor: scented ribbon-like flowers in very early spring and orange and red fall foliage. Chinese witchhazel (Hamamelis mollis) and Japanese witchhazel (Hamamelis japonica) grow 10 to 15 feet tall, while the hybrid of the two (Hamamelis x intermedia) comprises dozens of cultivars with varying mature heights and flower colors. Some hybrid varieties that reach a maturity of 10 feet with a slightly wider spread include 'Glowing Embers,' 'Harlow Carr,' 'Early Bird,' 'Diane' and 'Angelly.' Grow them in USDA zones 5 through 8.
Leatherwood is a native of the southeastern United States, attains a height of 10 to 15 feet, and requires removal of its suckering root sprouts to maintain a classic tree-like appearance. Summertime white, fragrant spikes of bloom precede the red fall foliage. This small tree grows in USDA zones 6 to 11.
Upright-shaped viburnum shrubs (Viburnum spp.) that mature to a height of 8 to 12 feet and naturally produce multistemmed plants with attractively structured branches make prime candidates for small trees when their low branches are pruned away. Japanese viburnum (Viburnum japonicum) selections 'Chippewa' and 'Huron' mature to 8 to 10 feet and grow best in USDA zones 7 through 9. Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus) reaches 8 to 12 feet tall and is appropriate in the warm zones, 9 and 10.