In our neighborhoods of smaller homes and backyard patios, trees often seem out of the question. But many species that do well here really are of smaller stature and can add a wonderful focal point on a patio as well as providing shade and shelter for wildlife. See the examples below.
Eriobotrya deflexa or Bronze Loquat is an ornamental, fast growing small tree that has wonderfully scented cream flower clusters that come out in the spring. No fruit. Moderate to regular water. Heavy mulch will reduce watering needs.
Albizia julibrissin or Mimosa Silk Tree has a wonderful umbrella shape with finely cut ferny leaflets that close at night. Clusters of pink to deep rose powder puffs ride above the crown and start their show in June. It will retain a smaller size if you buy a multitrunked one but a single trunk can be pruned with care to not grow beyond patio size. These are especially beautiful when viewed from above. Grows fast with regular water. Put in warmest area possible and heavily mulch.
Cercidium (4 species) – Palo Verde Tree is very drought tolerant and is valued for its beautiful clusters of yellow flowers and filtered shade which is cast by many branchlets rather than leaves. 'Desert Museum' is the most favored with its longer bloom cycle, thornless branches, fast growth to 20 ft and scant litter. Do not prune in hot weather.
Erythrina Crista-Galli – Cockspur Coral - Almost deciduous with long leaflets arriving before long spike clusters of coral or salmon with deep red blossoms that resemble small birds in late spring/early summer. Can repeat bloom. Cut back after each wave. Do not water in summer.
Meredith French has been a professional photographer for 30 years. She was accepted into Master Gardeners in 2005 and does public speaking for them. She also writes on a variety of garden topics and is a regular contributor to California Garden. She often features the insects and other wildlife of her own certified habitat garden. Many of these images are for sale at meredithfrenchphoto.com.