While trees are essential in most landscapes, it’s the unusual ones that make some gardens special. Weeping trees are real eye-catchers, impressing by being out of the ordinary. But limit them to a single specimen—over-planting is overkill. Fortunately, weeping trees come in a range of sizes, and there’s one suitable for almost any property, from a small townhouse yard to a large country estate. Here are a few worth looking for.
‘Walker’ weeping peashrub (Caragana arborescens ‘Walker’)
Height: 1 to 3 m
Spread: 1 to 1.5 m
Cultivation: Full sun; most soils, except very wet ones
An attractive tree with lacy foliage and pea-like yellow flowers in early summer, it’s well suited to small gardens, yet doesn’t look lost in large ones. ‘Walker’ also makes a good container plant since it doesn’t need winter protection in most of Canada. Its ultimate height depends on the height of the original stem on which C. arborescens was grafted. For most gardens, the taller the stem, the better, since its weeping branches will reach the ground after a few years. C. a. ‘Pendula’ is similar in size, hardiness and requirements, but has eight to 12 oval leaflets, not dissected ones.
Lavender Twist redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’)
Height and spread: 2.5 to 3 m
Cultivation: Full sun to part shade; most soils except those that are very well drained or permanently wet
The branches of this umbrella-shaped tree twist as they grow and are clothed in lavender pink flowers for two weeks in early spring before leaves emerge. Flower buds are carried in small clusters on the main branches and trunk, as well as on the previous season’s growth; when in bloom, almost the entire tree is covered with blossoms. In fall, pea pod-like fruit turn brown and persist to provide winter interest. The heart-shaped leaves open a reddish purple, turn dark green when fully expanded, then yellow in fall.
Weeping katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’)
Height and spread: 9 to 12 m
Cultivation: Full sun; rich, moist soil, preferably slightly acidic
A delightful tree with heart-shaped leaves that are pink to purple in spring, blue-green in summer and orange, red or pink in fall, depending on the soil acidity (best colour in acidic soils); the autumn foliage smells of caramel. In early spring, male and female flowers, on separate plants, are green, small and quite attractive, and fragrant close up. The tree forms a mound, with branches that weep to the ground—as one catalogue put it: “Pure garden architecture… (whose) slender branches flow in a blue-green cascade.” However, it’s highly intolerant of drought and will shed its leaves if the soil becomes overly dry, especially in the first few years after planting.