“What’s up with dwarf trees? Who would want a tree that’s essentially a runt? I’d somehow feel gypped if I bought a tree that stayed short instead of growing up tall like all the normal trees.” I can easily imagine such lines appearing in a Jerry Seinfeld act. Or to put it more succinctly, in honor of a comedian from an earlier era: “Small trees get no respect.” But dwarf trees can be a valuable addition to many landscapes and landscape design projects.
Indeed, “dwarf tree” would seem, at first glance, to be an oxymoron. We’re used to looking up (literally!) to trees with an admiring gaze that says, “How kind of you, gentle giant, to grace my landscape with your enormous presence!” For most of us, “trees” is almost synonymous with “shade trees” or, at the very least, with the medium-sized flowering trees that dominate the spring landscape.
But here’s a case where less can be more. When planting in a small space, such as in a foundation bed, you need to be confident that you’re not installing something that you’ll only end up removing after but a brief interval, because it has outgrown its allotted space. Slow-growing dwarf trees justify our confidence in their ability to fill such niches. And for that, they deserve our respect.