Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Favorite Flowering Trees

The blooming tree season is pretty well over, but the landscaping season is just getting into full swing.  Don't neglect these early season beauties when considering what to incorporate into your landscaping this summer.  Here are my four favorites.  If I had a bigger yard, I'd be cramming these in all over the place.

My sentimental favorite: Redbud.  I grew up with Redbuds.  Had one outside my bedroom window and one outside of my Grandma's kitchen window.  But you don't need to have warm, fuzzy memories attached to Cercis canadensis to fall in love with it.  It pops with blossoms that range from mauve to fuschia in spring.  It's post-bloom habit is airy and open with heart-shaped leaves that provide enough dappled shade (at maturity) to grow Hostas beneath.

My messy favorite: Magnolia.  A blooming Saucer Magnolia is akin to a Fannie May buttercream - so rich and delicious, you just can't get enough, but you know you'll pay for it later!  Saucer Mags are drenched in giant, silky blooms.  They are the Queens of the hardy Magnolia family.  However, what goes up must come down, and all those giant blossoms make quite a mess when they fall.  For me, a little bit of raking is well worth the show, but I would recommend siting the tree away from sidewalks and driveways to keep the mess out of traffic patterns.  After the blooms are cleaned up, you'll love sitting beneath the open arms of Magnolia soulangeana.  The habit is similar to a Redbud, but larger.

My risky favorite: Dogwood.  My heart goes pitter-patter when I see a Flowering Dogwood decked out with it's flat discs of petals set in horizontal lines, like a waiter with an armful of white plates.  The beautiful Cornus florida likes warm, moist environs and they tend to congregate in the south (can you blame them?).  Sadly, you and I live in Illinois - a land known for cold winters and dry summers.    To tip the cards in our favor, take some time to find the perfect location for your Dogwood.  Keys to consider: protection from the winter winds and a close proximity to a hose (for those droughty supplemental waterings).  Also, I recommend choosing one of the 'Cherokee' hybrids.  They're a hardier group and resistant to some common Dogwood pests.   Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) is more tolerant of our conditions, and definitely worth considering.

My multi-season favorite: Serviceberry.  I have a Serviceberry.  But I wish I had three.  I think these small shrubby trees look even better when planted in groups.  I treasure all the seasons with my little gem.  In spring, Amelachier canadensis sprouts white blooms, followed by purplish-blue edible fruits (a big draw for birds).  An A+ in fall color makes Serviceberry the Valedictorian of its class.  The canadensis surname tips us off to a hardy ancestry that will keep our Serviceberries blooming after many a hard Illinois winter.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the reliable Crabapple.  I grew up with one in my front yard and I made many a 'crabapple pie' (the non-edible kind: think mud pie, but prettier).  The blooms swarm the whole crown in spring, creating a virtual cloud of flowers.  Personally, their post-flowering foliage and habit are not my favorite.  Just sort of blah for me.  Crabapples, however, win big awards for cold hardiness.  In Illinois, that HAS to count for something.  If you're looking for a crabapple, do your homework.  They are notoriously susceptible to disease, but breeding has created some excellent resistant varieties.


mama weez said...

I really enjoy your posts, so inspiring and I love flowering trees :)

Anonymous said...

Plant spa always includes the ferns and usually the Norfolk Pine because of all my plants they need humidity most. flowering trees

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