After the recent cold snap, I for one, can't wait for the early signs of spring Mother Nature bestows upon us. After all the bitter cold temps don't we deserve the hope of warmer weather that the flowers on early spring blooming trees give us?
The grand dame of early bloomers is undoubtedly the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) or Judas tree. With small but spectacular lavender pink blooms that grow in clusters covering the bare branches, it is a landscape showstopper. The flowers last about two to three weeks and when the leaves emerge they are heart shaped in a reddish color that eventually turn green by summer.
With its relatively small height, approximately 20-30 feet tall and 15-30 feet wide, it makes a perfect tree for just about any yard. Considered a moderate grower, but the fastest growing of Redbuds, it will grow approximately seven to ten feet in five years.
While this is a tree that is hardy to the entire state of South Carolina, it is important to pick the appropriate site to meet its growing conditions. Redbuds prefer well drained soil and cannot tolerate wet areas. While they prefer sun, it is wise to choose a location with partial sun as hot summer temperatures can be too intense for the tree.
There are several other varieties that perform well in our area:
'Alba': white flowers
'Forest Pansy': burgundy foliage that becomes dark green in summer heat
'Hearts of Gold': lime green foliage that grows to 15 feet tall
'Lavender Twist': weeping Redbud with umbrella like look; green foliage that turns golden yellow in Fall
Another Southern favorite, the flowering dogwood happens to make its colorful entrance just before the Eastern Redbuds. One of our favorites in the nursery is the Kousa variety. Considered slow growing, this tree will grow to approximately 20-25 feet with most of the upright growth happening in its youth and as it matures filling out and growing wider (like the rest of us do) to approximately 15-20 feet.
The Kousa produces interesting color at two different times of the year. In the Spring, green leaves eventually yield creamy white flowers that may turn a pink hue as they age. In early Fall (September-October), the tree produces reddish pink raspberry type fruit and later that season, the leaves change with the color varying from purple to red to yellow.
Flowering dogwoods are finicky about their growing conditions. The soil must be well drained as too wet or too dry soil will not be tolerated by the tree. Ideally, it should have afternoon shade but can handle full sun if necessary. Additionally, the Kousa variety is the most disease resistant.
We would be so remiss if we did not include cherry trees. (Sigh. . .) The pink frilly blooms that cover the entire tree in March are so cheerful and bright. Picture that tree draped in front of a clear blue Carolina sky and you have just witnessed perfection.
The Yoshio cherry dots the Washington DC landscape and paired with the Japanese cherry tree are two of the most recognizable cherry trees. The Yoshino trees produce whitish pink flowers before the leaves emerge which leaves the tree awash in beautiful small single or double blooms.
Yoshino cherry trees can reach 40-50 feet tall and wide and are considered fast growers easily reaching 20 feet in a only a few years. They prefer full sun, however they are not as tolerant of our heat and humidity so a partially shaded area would serve it best in this area. The soil should be slightly acidic and fast draining as they don't like wet feet, but are also intolerant of drought and must be watered under these conditions.
Plant one of these beauties this year so you can enjoy the early signs of spring in your yard in the years to come!