June 13, 2013
Q. Can you recommend a small tree (max. 10 feet), east facing, that can withstand wind?
We have gone through two weeping pussy willows in the last five years. The trees flowered and started to grow leaves, then died shortly after. Unfortunately, the last few years, we've had warm weather, then cold, then warm, etc., and that is not helping. Burlington, Ont.

A. A 10-foot maximum means you are really looking for a shrub. The suggestions below depend on what is available at your local nursery. Since you had a deciduous tree there to start with, the plants listed below are all deciduous choices.

  • Amelanchier sp. or serviceberry
    Most are taller than you want but there are cultivars that are only about 3-3.5 m tall. These bloom early in the spring, have edible berries (much loved by birds) in early July, and bright red fall colour. They are very hardy.
  • Sambucus canadensis — elder
    About 3 m tall and wide. It has fragrant and showy white blossoms in June and dark purple berries (good for making wine and jam if you get to them before the birds) late in the summer. There is a cultivar called 'Aurea' with yellow overtones in the foliage. I have seen a beautiful cultivar with pink blossoms and burgundy foliage that is very attractive.
  • Magnolia 'Susan'
    About 2.5 m tall, reddish-purple flowers, green foliage, bronze fall colour.
And here are a couple of hardy smallish trees:

  • Acer ginnala
    Also called amur maple or flame maple, 6-7m tall, wonderful red fall colour.
  • Prunus virginiana (Schubert choke cherry)
    About 5.5 m all white flower, red berries, green to maroon foliage, red fall colour.
I am not sure what you mean by weeping pussy willow. Pussy willows (Salix discolor) are upright shrubs and are very hardy. They do like moist, almost wet, soil and lots of sun. Perhaps it was too dry for them in this location. If this was a graft of pussy willow branches onto some other rootstock, maybe the rootstock wasn't hardy enough or did not deliver enough moisture to the grafted branches. It is a concern that the willow did not survive in this location. It may have been affected by other plants growing in the area.