I now know a property owner in Denver. A homeowner, a householder. A man of means. He owns half of a duplex in the city, in Sunnyside, an urban neighborhood of small homes that is up and coming.
His home is 814 square feet. It's a shotgun layout, straight through to the back. Built in 1897, it has a dirt and stone foundation and a hundred years plus of charm, and has been fully renovated. It's tiny, but there is a big new garage, allowing this new property owner to finally get his road bikes out of his kitchen.
He has asked me to consult and advise on trees for his yard and his public space.
For a tiny home and small yard, there is actually a lot of public space between the sidewalk and street, and a lot of room inside the fenced back yard that needs planting.
The city of Denver has a remarkable tree planting program where they offer free trees to homeowners in neighborhoods that they have determined have too little canopy. These are free container grown shade trees, about a 5 foot tall sapling size, which you'd pay $90 to $120 for at a nursery. They are to be planted in the public spaces between sidewalk and street or in your own yard. This is a great program.
The Sunnyside neighborhood where the new homeowner has settled is not one of the target areas in Denver with too few trees, so the trees are not free, but are offered at a modest cost of $35. That's still a bargain for this size tree.
They offer the following, selected by the Colorado forestry department for suitability to plant in a western city a mile high:
Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) -- it's a tree I grow in my Connecticut garden and love. Stately, even at a young age. Glossy and green. I'd advise planting this tree.
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) -- a coarse big tree, but well suited to the Denver climate.
Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) -- I don't know much about this one, but it could be interesting.
Triumph Elm (Ulmus x 'Morton Glossy') -- how great to have a tall shady elm tree! It's tough and disease resistant. Makes me a little concerned, but maybe improved disease resistant elms out west do well. I'm still scarred by the total loss of the original species elms that succumbed to disease in Connecticut in the last century.
London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia 'Bloodgood') -- A very big shady tree much like a sycamore, but I wouldn't select it for my new homeowner. Messy, big-leaved, not my favorite. To me the mottled bark is weird rather than interesting.
Honeylocust -- (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis 'Shademaster') -- this is a lacy looking tree that provides dappled, open shade. The leaves turn yellow in fall, and against the dark black trunks, it's a stunning look. We have them here in the east and they are eye catching. I think the new homeowner should plant some of these.
'American Sentry' Linden (Tilia americana) -- a dense pyramidal tree with an elegant shape. I love lindens, and it would be really nice to plant some at the new house.
They also offer Cleveland Select flowering pear, which is popular, but can be a problem here. They break apart under icy snow loads. I mean they totally self destruct. But in Denver there is rarely heavy wet snow like we get here, and perhaps they are a better choice out there. They can be very pretty flowering trees with russet fall color, so. . . that's a possibility.
The program also offers small trees -- a dogwood and a redbud, but only for spaces where shade trees won't fit. The focus of the tree program is to plant very large trees that will shade city streets.
In addition to the city's tree offerings, there are choices from local nurseries too -- crabapples, bigtooth maples, and of course evergreens like spruces and conical junipers that could work in a small yard.
The new homeowner has to apply for the city program trees in February, so I'll help with that. Then, in April when the plants are available for pick up, I'll fly out for a weekend of planting, watering, mulching -- maybe some nursery hopping too for a few shrubs.
I already see the future vision of a shady urban homestead in a mile high city.