When you’re famished for early season color, spring flowering bulbs come to the rescue. But then one quickly moves on to appreciate the more impressive flowering trees. Trees can and do provide more than just leaves and one “flash in the pan,” so to speak. Spring flowers, fragrance, fall color and winter interest are just a few of the other contributions each tree can make to your home landscape. Come join me on and jump into the “tree derby” with me.
If adding trees is something you plan to do, now is a great time to start your quest as you take notice of what each tree earns on a “tree point” system. Green leaves are a given and you get one point each for any of the other features. Try for at least two points, keeping in mind location, proximity to power lines, size, growing conditions, how it will look with the house and other plants, etc.
That being said, what are some of the choices before you? Serviceberry ‘Princess Diana’ (Amelanchier grandiflora) is a dainty, spreading tree. In spring it has white flowers which yield delicious fruit which you’ll have to fight the birds to get. And if it’s color you want, you can’t beat it in the fall for its spectacular red foliage. That tree gets you 3 points: flowers, fruit, and fall color.
When I think winter interest (1 point), among the first trees which come to mind is Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avelanna ‘contorta’) . Once you see it, you will always remember it. The stems are artistically contorted (1 point) and in season, the bright green leaves (some versions are maroon which gets you a point for a different color) are slightly twisted (another point for interest). During fall and winter, numerous male catkins are visible. It’s a most unusual specimen to have in your landscape.
How could you not consider a Japanese weeping cherry tree
(Prunus ‘Snowfozam’) ? Its appealing growing habit makes it a winner in winter when its bare form provides interest, while its spring flowers add color and fragrance: 3 points – boom!
Dogwoods are so common you probably don’t even see them. But if you do decide to add one, go for an Asian variety (Cornus kousa). Three points since you get spring flowers, late season fruit for the birds, and that deep burgundy foliage in the fall. Take note that Kousa dogwoods with variegated foliage (1 point), e.g., ‘Wolf Eyes’, have the best fall color as that two tone effect comes through even as the temperatures fall
Flowering fruit trees are very popular owing to their lovely spring displays. Crabapple, apple, peach, and almond are some of the choices you have. Some of these trees – like the apple – will draw wildlife to feast on whatever they can get. But the crabapple beats them all in that it can have fragrant flowers which can range from pale pink to magenta, and wonderful fruit for the birds later in the season. ‘Louisa’ is a disease-resistant weeping version. You have a chance for extra points if you choose a fragrant specimen or a weeping version for winter interest.
A very popular flower show entry which stops people in their tracks is coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’)
. It is so called because its stems and bark turn a deep red as the temperatures cool down, adding fabulous color (1 point) to the winter landscape, with or without snow. The spring emergence of early chartreuse foliage heightens the contrast until the June temperatures bring down the noise to normal levels and seasonal colors. What a show, all the while racking up those points.
You might want to visit some well stocked local nurseries, an arboretum or botanical garden in your area to see some of these trees for yourself. Any time you spend researching this will be well rewarded, as you will thoroughly enjoy whatever route you take.
By Lorraine Ballato