When looking for an attractive shade tree or a unique specimen for your yard, consider nuts. They fit into most landscapes and provide plenty of fresh, flavorful nuts for baking and snacks. The English, or Persian, walnut (Juglans regia) is a fast-growing, medium-size tree with a handsome rounded crown and open, spreading branches. The compound leaves create an almost tropical effect.
At one time, the forests of the eastern United States were filled with American chestnut trees (Castanea dentata), but almost all have been destroyed by a fungal disease called chestnut blight. You can still enjoy the old-time flavor of roasted chestnuts by planting the blight-resistant Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima). It yields sweet, meaty nuts in just three to five years and has an added bonus of long pale-yellow flowers in late spring.
Another delightful flowering nut tree that is usually associated with warm climates is the common almond (Prunus dulcis). By selecting cold-tolerant cultivars like ‘Hall’s Hardy’, you can grow almonds as far north as Zone 5. The fragrant pale-pink flowers are reason enough to grow almonds, and your first crop of creamy-white nuts will literally add icing to the cake.
The American hazelnut, or filbert (Corylus americana), rarely grows over 12 feet tall, making it a good tree for cramped places. The fluffy yellow male flowers, called catkins, are attention-getters in early spring, and the unpredictable fall foliage ranges from pale yellow to fiery red. If left unpruned, hazelnuts tend to shoot up suckers and become shrubby, making them a nice choice for hedges or screens. Expect a harvest of sweet plump nuts in two to three years from the time of planting.
Hazelnuts and certain other nut trees require cross-pollination for fruits to form; this means that you’ll need to plant more than one variety together. For self-fruitful nuts, such as walnuts, you don’t need two varieties, but it’s best to plant at least two of the same type of tree to ensure complete pollination. Besides, what could be more fun than having a couple of nuts hanging around to brighten up your yard?