Q. I live at an apartment complex in Center City, Philadelphia. We have a huge central coutyard. The most visible area is a shady area.
This is a low income elderly building, Can we get the trees free somewhere.
Eduardo: There are some very pretty Japanese Maples which stay around 15' and are shade tolerant. One is "Fireglow" another is "Butterfly". There are many kinds of Japanes Maples, so be sure that you get one that is small. These two I mentioned are around 12' wide at maturity. When looking for the tree, ask for a low growing, narrow type of Japanese Maple. Another tree to consider is Ameranchier x grandiflora 'Ballerina'. It is also called Serviceberry. Another tree with shade tolerance is Cercis canadensis. It will be 20' tall and 20' wide but has pretty magenta flowers. It is in full bloom now. Another tree to consider is the Rutgers Dogwood. It is shade tolerant, disease tolerant and has lovely flowers. The Kousa Dogwood tree would be another possiblity. If you Google these trees, you can decide which you like the best.
Vinca would be a possible ground cover, but you may want a selection of plants for a garden appearance. In that case, Epimedium, Hosta, Ferns and Helleborus would make a pretty ground cover for the courtyard garden.