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Specimen container tree/shrub for terrace

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General post from Kevin Pfeiffer


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I've decided that for the sake of its composition our rooftop terrace needs one more addition this year -- a small specimen tree or shrub. Ideally I'd like a nice red-leafed Japanese maple, as the reddish-purple color would work well with the existing colour palette; height of about 2 m and capable of taking some wind (bundled up, of course). My problem is that the Japanese maples in the size (or close to it) that I find are rather expensive.

What else might one consider? It could also be a flowering shrub. South-facing rooftop exposure with full sun until late afternoon when it will fall into the shade of the fencing behind. Will be in a container. In another corner I already have a Hibiscus syriacus 'Woodbridge' -- something like that might also work. But this new location is very close to the patio area and the grill. So it can't get too wild or it'll be in the way.


Follow-up: Perhaps an ornamental plum? I can get Prunus cerasifera Nigra, for example; that would give me my bronze-red colours and a nice appearance, I think, and it is supposed to be rather undemanding and winter hardy.

  • Views: 1947
  • Replies: 6
  • Posted: Thu. 29th April 2010 10:09

Shrubs/trees for a terrace

Reply from Kathy C

Hi, Kevin,
I certainly agree - decent sized Acer palamatum can be expensive. Another concern about putting one on your terrace is scorch - emerging leaves in can be easily damaged by wind, sun, or frost. It won't hurt the plant much at all, but will look unsightly. Only way to avoid that is to move to the most sheltered spot you can find for winter/spring. Using Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra' could be done but it will get quite large - too large for a container unless you are ready to do a lot of restrictive crown & root pruning. Other suggestions for purple leaves, flowers, etc are:
- Cotinus coggyria 'Royal Purple' - one of my favourites - gorgeous purple colour, great, fun flowers
- Prunus x cistena - Purple-leaved sand cherry is compact and gives all that a large cherry gives.
- Loropetalum chinense f. rubrum - purple foliage and pink, witch-hazel-like flowers - it is tender in frost so it would need protection but it is evergreen!
- Enkianthus cernuus var. rubens - leaves turn purple-red in autumn
- Hebe - quite a few to choose from with purple leaves or purple-variegated leaves; 'Neils' Choice', 'Lady Ann' 'Amy' & 'Black Beauty' to name a few
- Rhododendron 'Everred'
- Leucothose 'Scarletta' - evergreen
- Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb' - dwarf so perfect for a container, evergreen, but not much in the way of flowering and is a bit tender.
- Weigela florida 'Foliis Purpureis'
So, there are just a few ideas. I think all of these suggestions are on this site. I vote for the Cotinus or Prunus x cistena! :)
Please let me know what you choose!
Kathy C.

  • Posted: Thu. 29th April 2010 20:47

And another...

Reply from Laura Thomas

As usual, Kathy has supplied you with very good advice and choices :)

You might also consider
Spindle 'Red Cascade'

do let us know what you decide on


  • Posted: Sat. 1st May 2010 13:20


Reply from Kathy C

Thanks, Laura - very kind. I've been out of commission for a little while so it is nice to be back discussing plants!
Kathy C

  • Posted: Sat. 1st May 2010 16:16

Welcome back -

Reply from Laura Thomas

Glad it made you smile - how could we get along without your advice? It's true x

  • Posted: Sun. 2nd May 2010 15:03

Many thanks!

Reply from Kevin Pfeiffer

Many thanks to you both! As if to reinforce the "beware of wind" advice we had strong windy gusts of dry air all day yesterday. I will let you know. Not sure what my nearest greenhouse has as they do not have everything online (I think), so will have to make a trip there; this won't be for at least a week or so as I have a big deadline this week and on Friday we're off for several days of rest and relaxation.

One thing that caught my eye at the local builder (and garden) supply store was a rather mature looking Heidelbeer (blueberry) plant in a container. It was being used as an aisle "end cap" for the display of smaller plants. From what I've seen, they apparently do make good container plants and are hardy, but I don't know about the wind and exposure. Anyhow, although nothing like anything I've mentioned so far, it would have made a great eye catcher and was a good height (low, but not too low).

But first I'll check the greenhouse, and will report back in a couple weeks.


  • Posted: Sat. 1st May 2010 17:02

Final choice?

Reply from Laura Thomas

Glad you might have found what you are looking for. I believe it does well in a container because you can control the soil (acid loving ericaceous mix) and tend to its needs in cold conditions.

  • Posted: Sun. 2nd May 2010 15:08