Photo by Jessica Walliser
The flowers on my Moonglow sweetbay magnolia tree smell like heaven.
This has been a great year for our flowering trees. Although many of them were planted just last year, they were stellar bloomers this spring. I think our warm winter and earlier-than-usual spring played a role in making them so outstanding this year. I am so pleased with the varietal choices we made and thought I might tell you what I like about each one of them, just in case you are looking for a few small flowering trees for your own landscape.
Wolf Eyes Dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’)
This Asian dogwood is similar to our native dogwoods, but it flowers a tad later. The leaves of this variety are a gorgeous light green with a creamy white edge, and the flowers are also white. Eventually our little Wolf Eyes dogwood will reach about 20 feet tall so it won't be likely to bump into the electrical wires strung above it. Wolf Eyes dogwoods are hardy from USDA zones 5 to 8 and require only partial sun.
Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)
Another native of Asia, our stewartia has beautiful mottled bark, flower buds that resemble green velvety pearls, lovely camellia-like white flowers, and an amazing red-orange fall color. Japanese Stewartia has always been one of my most favorite trees, and I'm so excited to now have one of my own. Eventually it will top out at 30 to 40 feet, but it's a slow grower so it will be many, many years until we see it reach it's potential. Japanese Stewartia grows best in full to partial sun, and it's hardy from USDA zones 5 to 8.
White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Although the Chinese variety of this tree is more common in our local nursery trade, we opted to grow the native one instead in our backyard. We chose this particular tree because it is single trunked, but it's common to see fringetrees that are multi-stemmed, too. The white, fringe-like flowers it bears cover the tree like snow, and female specimens are followed by purple or blue berries. White fringetrees grow in hardiness zones 3 to 9 and eventually grow to 20 feet tall. We sited our white fringetree where it receives sun from dawn until about 3 p.m.
Moonglow Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana 'Moonglow')
If ever there were a tree that smelled like heaven, this would be it in my book. An American native, sweetbay magnolia has always held a special place in my heart for it's beauty and versatility, but this particular variety is super special because of its incredible fragrance. Sweetbays tolerate very wet and dry soils and are pretty tough customers. Most sweetbay magnolia trees are multi-stemmed and produce flowers heavily in early spring and then sporadically through the summer. The leaves are green on top and whitish underneath, and they remain semi-evergreen in our zone 6 garden. Our moonglow sweetbay magnolia tree will eventually reach 30 feet tall and is a fairly quick grower that's hardy from USDA zones 5 to 10.
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