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Flowering Trees - One can Never have to Many

by Ruth Foster

Encircle your view with a panorama of flowering trees, designed to give you a succession of bloom, so when one finishes another bursts into flower. For a more spectacular display, group each flowering tree with shrubs and flowers that bloom at the same time. For instance, next to flowering magnolias, plant PJM rhododendrons, then underplant the whole with early bulbs in pink, blue and white. It will be a gigantic "bouquet" of cheer in early spring.

One can never have too many flowering trees, and with so many beauties the biggest problem is which ones to choose. These are some of the best in order of their succession of bloom.

FLOWER VERY EARLY IN SPRING

MAGNOLIA

First to bloom is Star Magnolia with its many petaled, gentle flowers, followed about a week later by Saucer Magnolia with big, rich, full, cup-shaped flowers. Each spring, historic Commonwealth Avenue in Boston is blanketed with the flowers of old magnolias which grow bigger on the sunny side of the street.

CALLERY PEAR A newly popular, upright tree smothered with small white flowers very early in spring also sports rich leaf color late in the fall.

CHERRY Everyone must have at least one. The breathtakingly beautiful Weeping Cherry opens springtime, soon followed by the cloud-like Yoshino Cherry of Washington D.C. Tidal Basin fame. The popular vase-shaped Kwansan cherry has deep pink double flowers but blooms later, in mid-spring with the dogwoods. Many cherries are short-lived. Those at the Tidal Basin have been replaced several times since Japan gifted them to us a century ago.

MID-SPRING BLOOMERS

CRABAPPLE There are columnar ones, low ones, round ones and drooping ones, some open earlier, some later. Most are named varieties and won’t come true if grown from seed. In damp climates, it’s important to look for ones resistant to the leaf diseases that plague this family. However, when in bloom, they are so satisfyingly floriferous that one can live with the brown leaves later in summer.

REDBUD An adaptable tree with charming bright pink flowers all along it’s bare branches is one of the few flowering trees that stands shade. It boasts an ephemeral white-flowered variety as well.

DOGWOOD Our native woodland dogwood is one of the most beautiful of all probably due to the graceful flowers that appear to float on its bare branches. Though it will grow in shade, it produces more flowers in sun and more elegant fall color. Its oriental cousin, the Kousa Dogwood puts on an equally good, long-lasting show which starts about 3 weeks later.

LATE SPRING THROUGH SUMMER

STEWARTIA Choice and sophisticated, though slow-growing, with camellia-like flowers and very good fall color.

SORREL TREE Also called Sourwood, has long panicles of ivory flowers followed by brilliant scarlet fall foliage.

ALBIZZIA Its flowers look like little powder puffs. A relative of the locust, it stands wind and sandy soil so does well near the shore. The rosea or pink-flowered form is hardy as far north as Boston. CREPE MYRTLE, widely planted in historic Williamsburg, Virginia, this is one of the best for summer color in warm climates. It can be grown as a multi-stemmed clump or a single trunk.

Some trees prefer spring planting, among them cherry, dogwood, sorrel, magnolia and stewartia. A wide, wide hole of loosened soil is best. Roots grow longer in ordinary good loam. In peat amended soil, they grow fuller but stay inside the prepared soil area. New roots established during the first several weeks after planting need weekly watering (of 10 gallons) for the first year.

Most trees grow best with good sun and where their roots are not in competition with other trees or lawn. Grass produces substances that inhibit tree roots, so a large circle of bark mulch will result in healthier growth and will conserve water too. A three-foot diameter circle is a minimum, eventually enlarged to five or more feet as the tree grows.

When planning, it’s important to allow enough room for each tree to spread as it grows. Fortunately the best flowering trees are relatively small and one or two can easily fit on most properties. The problem is which one to choose.



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