The Best Ornamental Trees for Washington

By Nancy Penrose

Many trees have different purposes, such as providing shade, a pop of color, or providing a privacy screen for the yard. There are some trees, however, which stand out as specimen trees, celebrated for adding beauty to the whole area around them. These beautiful trees make stunning and unique additions to any yard.

Here are our picks for our favorite ornamental trees that add great beauty to any landscape:

Stewartia ‘pseudocamellia’

This beautiful deciduous tree has green leaves in the spring and then a mix of reds, yellows and orange in the fall. Early summer produces camellia shaped white flowers.  The bark is a stunning patchwork of cream and brown colors that look fantastic year round with uplighting. It likes damp, well-draining soils and is suitable to smaller gardens. The books say ultimate height can be 40-50’ but they are very slow growing and more average heights are 20-25’.

Styrax japonica, Japanese Snowbell

This graceful tree is native to Japan.  The snowbell has lightly fragranced white bell- shaped flowers that bloom in late spring.  It has strong horizontal branches and a rounded crown. Typically, they grow to 20-30’ tall and wide, but slowly, making them a wonderful choice for a compact tree.

Cornus kousa, Korean Dogwood

This dogwood is a small vase-shaped tree that will reach 20-25’ tall. Eventually maturing to a more rounded form at maturity. In late spring it has a prolific off-white star-shaped blooms.  In the summer the layered branches create nice green leaves that are great for shade.  In the fall the leaves turn a bright red and it also has a bright red berry.  Even in the winter the jigsaw like bark offers seasonal interest.

Cornus florida, Florida pink flowering dogwood

This tree grows 20-30’ tall, often low-branching, broadly pyramidal but somewhat flat-topped canopy. It arguably may be the most beautiful of the native American flowering trees. It is native all the way from Maine to southern Ontario, to Illinois and Kansas and down south to Florida, Texas and Mexico. It’s one of the first trees to blossom in the spring, and in the fall the distinctive and beautiful pink-red leaves play a big role in this tree becoming such a show-stopper.

Acer Palmatum dissectum, Laceleaf Japanese Maple

This round, weeping deciduous tree has many qualities that make it an excellent garden plant, including a sculpted form, deeply cut foliage, arching shoots, and depending on the variety, fall colors ranging from bright orange to deep red. These trees have beautiful winter interest with their distinctive trunk structure.  Growing only to 8-10 ‘tall, this delicate looking and very distinctive tree is sure to attract attention for its natural beauty.

Acer palmatum (Upright) Japanese Maple

No list of the best ornamental trees would be complete without the Japanese Maple. There are many sub-cultivars of Japanese maples to choose from.  Some can be broad while others are more narrow.  Some are a purple leaf in the summer and others are green.  They can also have a wide range of fall colors from yellow to bright red. These trees will stun with their natural beauty all year round.  Ultimate height on average is 15-20’ tall.

Parrotia persica, Vanessa Persian Ironwood

The Parrotia ‘Vanessa’ has multi seasonal interest.  This tree has an upright columnar habit, with a canopy shape of an upright oval.  The leaves are a lush green in the summer that turn a sensational variety of colors, typically a mix of yellows, oranges and reds in the fall. The Parrotia Vanessa is a great tree for smaller yards and gardens maxing out in height at 20-30’.

Let us know what your favorite trees are that stand above for the beauty they add to their neighborhood!

Nancy Penrose is the owner of Big Trees Inc., located in Snohomish, WA in the Seattle area. The company is one of the largest tree nurseries in the Seattle area with over 120,000 trees available in over 300 varieties. They not only deliver young trees, but also mature trees in a wide range of sizes. Some types of trees available include spring flowering, deciduous, evergreen, and privacy trees. The company also does tree transplanting including large trees. Their blog can be seen at or They can be reached at 360-563-2700.

Big Trees Inc.
10928 Springhetti Rd
Snohomish, WA 98296