Picture the perfect yard. Your vision doesn’t necessarily include gazing balls, pink flamingos, whirligigs, or ceramic gnomes, but it nearly certainly involves at least one tree. Trees make the landscape. Not only do they beautify and add depth to any property, but the shade they cast can measurably lessen how much you’ll have to spend on air conditioning. Trees also provide oxygen, which is necessary in order to breathe. I wholly advocate that you plant trees in your yard, if only to make up for the untold acres of the things that have been sawn down to print this magazine. Here are some of your best options as a North Dakotan!

Crabapple Tree

Crabapple trees are fantastically easy to care for. They’re resistant to disease, require only little pruning and fertilization, and needn’t necessarily litter your lawn with rotting fruit if you pick the right strain. Depending on the variety of crabapple tree you plant, you’ll enjoy pink or white flowers in the springtime and red or yellow apples late into the year. The pretty birds that crabapples attract will bring an even greater shock of much welcome color in winter, but take care that birds are the only creatures allowed to enjoy your tree. Rabbits love the taste of crabapple tree bark — fortunately, inexpensive hardware cloth is the fix to that.

Ginkgo Tree

The Ginkgo is a dinosaur of a tree. We have unearthed 270 million year old fossils of its distinctive fan-shaped leaves! You can find Ginkgo commonly planted around holy sites in Japan, but their gorgeous golden color in autumn is bound to add a stately elegance to your own temple as well. Ginkgos are resilient: They were the only type of tree to survive the bombing of Hiroshima. Next to that, a North Dakotan winter is zilch. Make very certain you only plant male Ginkgos in your yard — not to be sexist, but to avoid the rancid smelling fruits that female Ginkgos produce. Ginkgo leaf extract is commonly used as a memory-enhancing supplement. The only problem with it is that you can never seem to remember to take it. 

Pagoda Dogwood

With its handsome horizontal branches, bunches of cream colored flowers, and leaves that turn wine red in the autumn, the pagoda dogwood makes an exceptional accent tree. The deciduous plant is native to Minnesota, so it is hardened against frost and ice, and it won’t shrivel if subjected to shade, either. This tree’s fruit is also another bird favorite, but do take caution that bears find it just as palatable. If you wake up one morning to find a bear having breakfast courtesy of your pagoda dogwood, give it a stern whack on the snoot with a copy of Shop.Dine.Live. (We assume no legal responsibility for whatever the bear might do next.)

Japanese Tree Lilac

As a rule, I’m not recommending ugly trees here. The lovely Japanese tree lilac will give you fluffy beards of ivory flowers in the late summer, and its ruddy bark endures throughout the winter to remind you that colors still exist. For all that it gives, the Japanese tree lilac asks for little in return. Give it full sun, loose soil, and enough space to itself, and it’ll be happy as a clam in high tide. This tree doesn’t need much by way of pruning, seldom succumbs to disease, and hasn’t got a very aggressive root system. It’s safe to plant near a deck that other trees would lay siege to, provided that it’s not deprived of the sun it loves so much.

Korean Fir

Another Asian exotic that made the migration to the Midwest perfectly, the Korean fir naturally assumes a pleasing conic shape and sprouts fat, bluish cones that look like tightly coiled rope. This tree slowly grows to no taller than 30 feet, making it a great choice if you haven’t got a lawn out of Downton Abbey, and it can be pruned to fill out however you please. The needles of the Horstmann’s Silberlocke cultivar have bright white undersides which are especially pretty. The Korean fir is a great choice if you’d like having a living Christmas tree in your yard!

Serviceberry Tree

The serviceberry makes a fine accent tree or shrub, with shiny green leaves in the early spring and clusters of white flowers on brightly colored stems later on. The serviceberry produces berries that go from green to red to black over the course of the summer, and its leaves turn scarlet and amber in the fall. Watching a serviceberry go through its changes throughout the year is like witnessing a slow motion firework! A serviceberry’s berries also serve very well for making jams and pies — if you can get to them before the birds do.


By David Scheller