Spring comes late to parts of Wisconsin, and ornamental trees bring a welcoming burst of color to all areas of the state. Plant ornamental trees where they are visible from indoors-- as a stand-alone specimen plant on the front lawn, in the shade of taller growing trees or in the back of a flower garden where they will form a background to other early blooming plants. Plant later blooming plants near them so you have a constant color palette.
Apple serviceberry(Amelanchier grandiflora) is also known as autumn brilliance. The tree is a hybrid, the result of breeding Amelanchier canadensis and Amelanchier laevis. It grows from 15 to 25-feet tall and about the same in width. It produces purple leaves that turn red, yellow or orange in the fall and flowers that start out pink and turn white as they age. The edible seeds attract birds. Apple serviceberry is hardy in all of Wisconsin. Plant it in full sun, partial shade or full shade and in any kind of soil.
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana L.) is also known as common chokecherry and choke cherry. It grows from 20 to 30 feet tall and produces green leaves and white flowers that grow in clusters that give way to dark purple fruit in August and September. Plant the tree in full sun, partial shade or full shade and in a soil that is moist to dry. Make jelly from the fruit if the birds and other wildlife leave you any. The seeds are toxic if eaten in large quantities. The tree is hardy in all of Wisconsin.
Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) is a deciduous tree that grows from 12 to 15 feet tall and even higher. The tree produces light-green 2- to 5-inch-long leaves that turn a dark green as they mature and purple-red in the fall. Small, white flowers appear in May and grow in clusters that measure 3 to 4 ½ inches in diameter and are followed by small fruits that appear as green to yellow and turn to pink, rose and finally to blue-black. Plant the tree in full sun or shade and in moist or dry, but not wet, soils. It attracts birds and butterflies and can grow in all areas of Wisconsin.
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) grows from 15 to 30 feet tall and 15 to 35 feet across. It produces medium-green 3- to 6-inch-long leaves that turn red and purple in fall Small yellow flowers appear in spring at the same time as the leaves and give way to ½-inch-long red fruits in the fall. Plant the tree in full sun in Wisconsin. In the southern parts of the country, the tree does better in partial shade. The tree tolerates dry soil, but needs moisture when there is a long drought. The fruit is an important food source for birds and animals. Flowering dogwood is only hardy in zone 5 in Wisconsin--the far eastern section of the state.