Cool Tree Varieties For Our Urban Forests

By Leif Knecht, Knecht's Nurseries & Landscaping

Minnesota Strain Redbud

Adding cool and different varieties of trees to our yards will do a lot to improve the health, diversity, and beauty of our urban forests, and will probably increase your property value. Distinctive features add value to our homes, and amazing trees can be part of what sets your property apart.

The following trees have not been widely planted, but are tough and beautiful trees that will make your place one of the coolest in the neighborhood. A nice added feature is that different varieties of trees add to the genetic diversity of the urban forest, making it more resilient and healthy.

Autumn Gold Ginkgo Distinguished by a lovely symmetrical and strong herringbone branch structure that offers great beauty even in winter. Able to grow well, even in very difficult soils. Brilliant gold fall color. A seedless variety that matures gradually to 50' tall and 30'-40' wide.

Ice Dragon Korean Maple An incredibly beautiful small tree with the most finely textured cutleaf foliage I have ever seen. A stunning landscape specimen. Sure to be the star of any garden. Plant in part sun/part shade, and properly drained soil. Gradually matures to 8' tall by 15' wide. Hardy enough for our Zone 4 climate.

Yellowwood A medium-sized ornamental tree that produces showy and very fragrant white flowers in large clusters each spring. Able to tolerate alkaline clay soils. At 25' tall x 25' wide, Yellowwood is a good fit for most urban lots. Avoid gravely/sandy soils. Full sun preferred.

Ancestry Oak A versatile and fairly fast-growing hybrid of our native Bur Oak, English Oak and other oaks. A good way to add diversity as we face the challenge of Bur Oak Blight attacking our mature trees. Will become a full-sized shade tree of 45' tall x 40' wide. Grows vigorously in all soils except wet areas.

True North Kentucky Coffeetree This new northern hardy strain is seedless, can grow on a wide variety of soil types, and will grow to become a stately shade tree of 50' tall x 40' wide. This tree is not the source of our morning brew, but is a tough and lovely seedless shade tree.

Minnesota Strain Redbud My favorite flowering tree. This strain, selected by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, has proven hardy enough for southern Minnesota and explodes in early spring with hundreds of bright magenta/purple blossoms that are 100 percent visible because they come long before any leaves. A standout ornamental tree of medium size – 20'x20' in Minnesota.

Leif Knecht is a Certified Nursery and Landscape Professional and owns Knecht’s Nurseries & Landscaping in Northfield. He can be found at knechts.net or 507/645-5015.