In this article, you will find information about how flowering trees can add a unique contrast to your landscaping. This information is a continuation of our article about how you can use tree textures to add interest to your landscape, and is directly sourced from The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook.
Who can resist a southern magnolia blossom’s lemony sweet fragrance and outrageous beauty? Not I! They have baby smooth petals and a sublime scent. A backdrop of large leathery ever green leaves heightens the creamy blossoms sensual appeal.
Flowers are reproductive organs that attract what they need for pollination. A pollinated flower matures into a fruit containing the seeds for the specie’s next generation. If you grow trees for their flowers, be aware that flowering can be fast, a few days for most; if the tree has bracts the period of color may last for several weeks.
Flowers come at different times of year for different plants. Red maple’s red flowers blush the crown in spring before the leaves appear. A mass of female trees on a hill or along a drive transforms the view into a subtle, yet rich red haze. Even as red maples come into leaf, reddish fruits appear in clusters, prolonging the ruddy glow. (In a garden, some folks gripe that once those pretty spring flowers become abundant fruits they result in messy seedlings that need plucking one by one.) Steweartia’s lovely white flowers occur in summer when most other trees have finished blooming, and Franklinia’s delightful flowers appear in fall, just before frost.
When you grow a tree for flowers, the blooms should be visible among the leaves and branches. Tulip tree produces large, cupped chartreuse and orange blossoms. The tuliplike flowers are striking, but the giant tree grows so fast that, unless your house is near the height of the tree’s canopy, you can hardly see the blossoms. I know because I had one that towered over my house where I live. Honestly, tulip trees are too big for most residential lots, but we like ours and kept it for its straight towering trunk, handsome light green leaves and yellow fall color. Another tree grown for its flowering clusters is fragrant styrax. This small flowering tree is quite pretty near a patio, but has droopy white bloom clusters sometimes seem hidden amid their leaves, which grow to 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. Even if you can’t always see the scented flowers, however, you can small them and appreciate the tree’s smooth, ruddy bark and exfoliating young stems.
Gardens grow some trees for flowers alone, including a few ornamental plums and cherries. Be careful which trees you choose as many cherrie and plums, which below ot the Rose Family, are prone to disease of that group. Even disease resistant varieties may attract tent caterpillars or Japanese beetles in areas where they are pests, the trees thus require regular picking or spraying. Prunus, my favorite cherry tree for its lush, tiny pink-on-pink flowers, yellow fall color and delicate airy habit, still gets Japanese beetles every July, but I grow it with a group of other shrubs that beetles do not bother.
What appear to be flowers may in fact be showy bracts, big petal like leaves that attract animals to the small flower clusters they surround. A wonderful ornamental known for its bracts is Kousa dogwood. It produces four pointed white bracts that turn pinkish with age surrounding a little greenish flower cluster at their center.