Posts Tagged Cercis canadensis

Bountiful Blooms

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying flowers of Halesia diptera

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying flowers of Halesia diptera

As always happens this time of year, Spring is blasting through my yard so fast that I cannot keep up — at least, not in my blog postings. Since early April, every day new bloomers have started while others have stopped. Because I’ve been focused on the vegetable garden, I have not had time to share all the beauty that surrounds me. But fear not, faithful readers, I have been taking hundreds upon hundreds of photographs. Today’s post is the first installment designed to catch you up on all the glorious blossoms.

Let me take you back in time to the middle of April, when my 35-foot tall Two-winged Silverbell (Halesia diptera) was in full bloom. I told you about this spectacular understory native here, but I’ve mentioned it in several other posts over the years. If you search on the name, you’ll find all the relevant posts for this tree. The close-up of the flowers above demonstrates their loveliness — and their popularity with native pollinators.

Here’s what the entire tree looked like this year:

Thirty-five feet of Wow!

Thirty-five feet of Wow!

I had to stand pretty far away to get all of it in the photo. That little bit of white at the top right is a bit of the large dogwood trying to show off some of its flowers in the shot.

In the interest of fairness, that aforementioned native dogwood deserves a photo of its own:

About 40 feet tall, this dogwood is probably about 50 years old, maybe even older.

About 40 feet tall, this dogwood is probably about 50 years old, maybe even older.

To the left in the above photo, you can just see a few blooms of the native redbud variety, ‘Forest Pansy,’ and, of course that’s a bit of Loropetalum ‘Zhuzhou Fuchsia’ filling up the right side of the photo.

Because the showy part of a dogwood flower is actually its bracts, they aren’t quite as pure a white as the petals of the Two-winged Silverbell. But they persist much longer in the landscape.

They may be bracts rather than petals, but that doesn't diminish their beauty.

They may be bracts rather than petals, but that doesn’t diminish their beauty.

And, since I mentioned Redbuds, I feel obliged to show you one of the standard natives in my yard in full bloom. Its lavender blossoms are emphasized by the green backdrop of the native Red Cedars behind it.

Cercis canadensis is breathtaking in bloom when sited where it can achieve its full potential.

Cercis canadensis is breathtaking in bloom when sited where it can achieve its full potential.

Now I want to turn your attention to the deciduous azaleas in my yard. I mention them in passing regularly, and you can find all the links by searching on the species or the category. The links that follow point back to the first posts from 2011 in which I described these wonderful understory natives.

Since 2011, all the azaleas have grown considerably. Some attain mature sizes in the 20′ x 15′ range, and I can tell that several of my specimens are well on their way to achieving their full potential. Some species and/or their cultivars bloom magnificently every year, while others seem to alternate years.

First to bloom, as usual, was Pinxterbloom Azalea (Rhodendron periclymenoides). It had its lushest bloom season so far, and thanks to the mostly cool weather, the blooms persisted longer than usual.

Pinxterbloom Azalea is native to the southeastern Piedmont.

Pinxterbloom Azalea is native to the southeastern Piedmont.

Soon after, it’s cultivar, ‘Purple,’ also bloomed, but its blooms were sparse this year.

R. periclymenoides 'Purple'

R. periclymenoides ‘Purple’

Overlapping the bloom time of Pinxterbloom was my R. austrinum hybrid, Pastel #19. This shrub is always ridiculously floriferous, and its potent perfume carries halfway across my five-acre yard on spring breezes. When it is at peak bloom, it stops visitors in their tracks every time.

Pastel #19 is almost six feet tall and five feet wide now.

Pastel #19 is almost six feet tall and five feet wide now.

Only inhale deeply of Pastel #19's flowers if you like very, very sweet fragrances.

Only inhale deeply of Pastel #19’s flowers if you like very, very sweet fragrances.

While Pastel #19 continued to bloom, another hybrid, Pastel #20 started its bloom cycle. Perhaps hybrid vigor explains why both these hybrids bloom with spectacular consistency every year.

The perfume of Rhododendron 'Pastel #20' is much more delicate than that of #19.

The perfume of Rhododendron ‘Pastel #20’ is much more delicate than that of #19.

I love the golden throats on these flowers.

Next to bloom was my R. alabamense, a native that is also reliably floriferous even without the benefits of hybrid vigor.

My Alabama Azalea is now about six feet tall and four feet wide.

My Alabama Azalea is now about six feet tall and four feet wide.

Its flowers emit a faint perfume that I enjoy for its subtlety.

R. alabamense is only now finishing up its bloom cycle.

R. alabamense is only now finishing up its bloom cycle.

The mostly cool spring has definitely prolonged bloom time for the azaleas this year.

My Oconee Azalea (R. flammeum) is over 8 feet tall now. Its form is more open than some of the other deciduous azalea species. My specimen bloomed heavily last year. This year, it’s not quite as floriferous, but still a knockout in the landscape.

R. flammeum buds just beginning to open.

R. flammeum buds just beginning to open.

R. flammeum in full bloom.

R. flammeum in full bloom.

Last of the azalea natives to bloom so far this year is Coastal Azalea (R. atlanticum). This native of southeastern US coastal plains keeps a much lower profile than my other deciduous azaleas. So far, it’s only about three feet tall in its high spots. The native species is a colonial spreader, but my cultivar, ‘Winterthur,’ is supposed to be more polite. It has gotten wider, but not aggressively so.

The flowers of Coastal Azalea are pure white, with no throat blotches as you see in R. alabamense. They are very potently fragrant — a cloying sweetness that is not my favorite. Because of its smaller size, I often smell the open flowers on this specimen before I see them the first time.

The flowers are almost sticky, perhaps encouraging pollinators to linger?

Coastal Azalea flowers are almost sticky, perhaps encouraging pollinators to linger?

Flowers of a couple of my other deciduous azalea varieties are almost open for business. I’ll show you those soon. Meanwhile, let me close today’s post with a photo or two of my trellis full of blooming Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’).

Unlike invasive Japanese Honeysuckle, the Major (as I like to call him) does not spread aggressively. However, it is enthusiastic, so I do cut it back severely every other year. The Major doesn’t object to this treatment, continuing to bloom so magnificently that every visitor to my house stops, gapes, and begs to know his name.

Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'

Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’

Hummingbirds adore these blooms.

Hummingbirds adore these blooms.


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Warmest March Ever

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’

That’s what the local weatherman proclaimed on the TV today — we’re having the warmest March ever. We’ve blown every existing temperature record to smithereens. Of course, I didn’t need the weatherman to tell me that. The plants in my yard have been telling me since about the time the deluded groundhog promised six more weeks of winter.

In all my 40+ years of gardening in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, I have never seen trees, shrubs, and perennials bloom so early, nor have I ever seen them bloom all together, as many of them are doing this year.

Take, for example, Redbuds, Dogwoods, and my Two-Winged Silverbell. Until this spring, I could rely on an orderly progression from Redbud bloom to Dogwood Show to Silverbell finale. This year, all the native Redbuds except one finished blooming last week. The one exception grows in a significantly cooler microclimate in my yard, nestled against a backdrop of towering Red Cedars, as you can see here:

That’s the top of my little greenhouse in the right front corner.

In normal years, as the Redbuds fade, the native Dogwoods begin to open their showy four-petaled bracts, first a creamy yellow, then bleaching to white in the spring sunshine. This year, the Dogwoods started opening last week. If you click on the link above to my Redbud account for last year, you’ll see that the native Redbuds had barely begun blooming last March 13. The Dogwood link above will show you that last year’s bloom peak was around April 5. I predict this year the peak will be in a day or two.

As for the Two-Winged Silverbell, last year it peaked around April 15. This year, the first flowers are open now, and judging by the size of the rest of the flower buds, it will peak in two more days. That’s about the same time as the Dogwoods, not two weeks later, as is usual. Here’s a shot of the Halesia flowers and buds that I took this morning:

This is just plain ridiculous! At this rate, summer foliage will be out in three weeks. The deciduous azaleas, ferns, mayapples, anise trees, and myriad other plants are also way, way ahead of schedule. I’ll show you photographic proof in another post soon.

But today I want to close with a veggie garden update. Here are the spring greens after the 3.5 inches of rain (that’s not a typo) we got last week:

I will be picking more goodies for another spring salad tomorrow. Tonight, I’ve covered them again with the floating row cover. We’re under a frost advisory tonight, and my yard often goes ten degrees below the official reporting station. The frost probably wouldn’t hurt them, but why take a chance with such potential deliciousness?

The Sugar Sprint peas are now producing tendrils. I expect flower buds any second. Tonight’s predicted frost will actually make them happier, so they don’t get covered.

Flowers needed ASAP to beat summer’s impending heat

This past weekend’s rain kept me mostly indoors watching the grass grow, but I did manage to finish transplanting all the tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse to larger pots. They’ll remain in these until it’s time to put them into the garden. Here’s a shot of the newly transplanted veggies:

The Super Marzano tomatoes that I planted two weeks ahead of the other summer veggies are enormous, even showing tiny flower buds. Look at them overpowering this shot of the greenhouse bench:

Their turn in the garden will come soon enough — assuming I manage to pull out enough of the cover crop of crimson clover on their beds to make room for them. The crimson clover has never grown to such gigantic size before. Usually winter freezes knock it down. That didn’t happen this year, so it grew, and grew, and grew. Soon the plants will be covered in red flower spikes that draw every pollinator in a five-county radius.

For good or ill, I’ll have plenty of warm weather for garden chores. After tonight’s frost and a chilly Tuesday, Wednesday is forecasted to be back in the mid to upper seventies.

Don’t even get me started on the pollen avalanche. March Madness indeed.

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Redbud versus Redbud

I mentioned previously that my Chinese Redbud (Cercis chinensis) was beginning to open its flowers. It always begins blooming a few weeks ahead of our native Redbud (Cercis canadensis). I especially love the arching branching pattern of the Chinese Redbud. This photo is my attempt to show you what I mean:

Chinese Redbud

If you click on the photo to see the larger version, I think you’ll see how the branches droop and arch. The flowers accentuate the shape of the branches without obscuring them, as the leaves will do soon enough. The branches of one side of this tree are covered with lichens. Lichens don’t hurt the tree, but they do give the gnarled branches a more ancient appearance. This tree was planted about fifteen years ago, and it’s about eight or so feet tall and equally wide. Here’s a closer view of its flowers:

Chinese Redbud Flowers

To my eye, these flowers are just a tad more magenta than the paler pink-lavender flowers of our native Redbud.

When we moved to this property, no native Redbuds grew here. I saw them on adjacent properties, but not here. I concluded that this understory tree was eradicated by the previous owner, along with the Sourwoods and other smaller natives I expected to find growing here. Before I could buy and plant any Redbuds, however, a whole crop of seedlings sprouted in a pile of wood chips left by my arborist. His truck had chips from an earlier customer to which he added the chips from my yard (I always ask him to leave the piles of chips.) The following spring, the seedlings appeared. I assumed that some Redbud bean-like seed pods (they are legumes) had been serendipitously mixed in with the wood chips from my arborist’s previous client.

That was twenty years ago. Here’s the base of the trunk of one of those early volunteers:

Native Redbud Trunk

I love the rough shagginess of the mature trunk. This tree grows near the vegetable garden and is just beginning to open its flowers. Most buds are not fully open, but you can see their color:

Native Redbud Flowers

They’re not really open enough for a decent portrayal. I’ll get a better shot in a week or so. Even from this close-up, you can see that the native Redbud’s branching pattern is much more erect than that of its Chinese cousin.  It’s also a much larger tree at maturity. This tree is about 25 feet tall now — a true piedmont understory constituent.

A key reason my native Redbuds are growing well is their location. Redbuds — like our native Dogwoods that will be blooming soon — occur naturally along forest edges. Adjacent taller canopy trees protect them from hot afternoon sun and cold winter winds, but they get enough sun to bloom well by being along a forest edge (or an open area deeper in a forest).

I always cringe when I see a poor Redbud or Dogwood planted smack in the middle of a suburban lawn without any other trees around it. Even if the homeowner manages to keep such a tree alive in that location, it will never come close to reaching its full potential. Such trees are too exposed there — too prone to root damage, over-fertilization, and shallow watering.

The southeast piedmont region of North America is home to many wonderful native trees and shrubs that will flourish in piedmont homeowners’ yards, if the growing requirements of those plants are met. A little thinking ahead of time will yield great results for decades to come.

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