Posts Tagged Stewartia monadelpha

Farewell, February!

Damaged Stewartia

Damaged Stewartia

Is is just me, or has February been a strange month? Folks in the Midwest are still covered in ice and snow. Here in the southeast, it was mostly rain — rain we really needed. But weather always seems to have pros and cons, doesn’t it? The Stewartia above — a lovely little non-native ornamental I adore — grows beneath giant, aging River Birches. River Birches usually only last about 100 years, and my enormous, gorgeous specimen trees are most decidedly declining. They drop small branches routinely. After the last rain, however, the giant nearest my Stewartia decided to blow its top.

Broken top of River Birch

Broken top of River Birch

Here’s a closer view of the topless branch.

We think the darker areas were rotten.

We think the darker areas were rotten.

And here’s more of the River Birch to provide a sense of scale.

This tree is part of a group of River Birches, all 80 feet or taller.

This tree is part of a group of River Birches, all 80 feet or taller.

Fortuitously for those growing beneath this forest giant, its top fragmented as it fell to the ground.

Clean-up will be fun -- not!

Clean-up will be fun — not!

The large piece in back partially crushed part of our deer fence, but Ace Wonder Spouse was able to roll away the large chunk enough to free the fence, which he then tacked back into position — at least well enough to thwart hungry deer, we hope.

The green shrub in front is a Titi -- a native that would be eaten to the ground if not for the fence inside which it grows.

The green shrub in front is a Titi — a native that would be eaten to the ground if not for the fence inside which it grows.

The poor Stewartia really got the worst of it. A number of branches were ripped from its trunk. Wonder Spouse will prune the damaged areas as much as possible soon.

A chunk of River Birch sits smugly in the crotch of the Stewartia -- just out of my reach.

A chunk of River Birch sits smugly in the crotch of the Stewartia — just out of my reach.

All in all, it could have been much worse, and I wouldn’t trade a drop of the rain that fell for the damage done. The rain had an immediate impact on plants and animals. Buds are swelling, birds and frogs sing more loudly every day. Despite below-normal temperatures and snow flurries promised for this weekend, Spring will have its way with us soon enough. I offer abundant proof:

Cornus mas in full bloom.

Cornus mas in full bloom.

Witch Hazel 'Aurora' smells even lovelier than it looks.

Witch Hazel ‘Aurora’ smells even lovelier than it looks.

More sunny daffodils open every day.

More sunny daffodils open every day.

Coming attractions: Abundant flowers on many deciduous azaleas.

Coming attractions: Abundant flowers on many deciduous azaleas.

Cardinals already battle for territory. The Purple Finch female with them must be very hungry to brave their grouchy company.

Cardinals already battle for territory. The Purple Finch female with them must be very hungry to brave their grouchy company.

The rain brought down many branches, but the creek never quite flooded. That’s how dry we’ve been. Today’s drought monitor update from the weather seers has FINALLY moved us from the Moderate Drought category to Abnormally Dry. Not great, but better.

Personally, I’m hoping March lives up to its advertised lion-like entrance, keeping us chilly and wet until I have time to clean up the yard, finish the pruning, weed and mulch the front beds, prepare the vegetable garden …  The list of chores grows exponentially with every passing hour.

So, February, bon voyage. It’s been — interesting. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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Fall Finale

Stewartia monadelpha

Stewartia monadelpha

Recent very cold nights have caused most of my trees and shrubs to surrender to the inevitability of winter bareness. But last week just before our 25-degree Fahrenheit nights began, a few trees and shrubs in my yard were spectacular. Some years these late-to-the-party autumn beauties are killed back before they achieve full color. This year, we were lucky.

The photo above is what my Tall Stewartias look like this time of year. S. monadelpha is not native, but I’ve never seen any signs of invasiveness from this Asian species in the 15+ years my two trees have been growing on our north side. Small white camellia-like flowers adorn every branch in late spring, and they are lovely. But I think this tree’s fall color, and the gorgeous cinnamon-colored bark it shows off during winter are its greatest assets.  The trees are pest-free and always beautiful, no more so that just before late autumn cold strips them bare of their scarlet cloaks.

Acer griseum samaras

My slow-growing Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) is most noticeable in the landscape after its leaves fall. The leaves turn a nice red, but they don’t last long. Fortunately, the large winged seeds (samaras) linger long on the branches, contrasting nicely with the exfoliating bark that motivated me to acquire this Chinese maple. Ours has been growing very slowly for over 20 years. It is about eight feet tall, maybe nine, growing at the edge of its preferred hardiness zone here. I knew it preferred colder climates, so I tucked it into a spot near the bottom of our consistently coldest hill, where snow lingers a week longer than anywhere else on our five acres. The reddish exfoliating bark and the large samaras more than compensate for the slow growth of this tree.

Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clarke’

I have waxed enthusiastic more than once about the intoxicating cinnamon-sweet fragrance of the rose-colored flowers of Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clarke,’ but I don’t think I’ve mentioned that she also dazzles us every autumn with her gold and apricot fall leaf color. Her cherry-red bark is lovely too, making this small tree a year-round favorite.

Acer buergerianum leaves adorn the ground

Trident maple (Acer buergerianum) is another Chinese maple I couldn’t resist. I added it because it is supposed to produce reliably red fall color. However, in my yard, the leaves on my tree vary with temperature. An early cold autumn creates lovely crimson color; a slow and mild fall like we had this year produces mostly golds and tangerines, with a few reds at the top of the tree.  This Chinese maple is also supposed to produce exfoliating bark on its trunk. My specimen is just getting large enough to show signs of this, but even now, its gray-whitish color is striking in my winter landscape.

The slow-to-cool autumn was more favorable for one of our favorite specimen trees. For the second year in a row, our Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) has been breathtaking. This tree always surprises me. One day it is bright green, then seemingly overnight, a golden glow overtakes it from top to bottom. This one draws wows from all who see it during its autumn display. It seems a fitting way to close this post, and the season. Winter starkness fast approaches, and I welcome the cold season. It gives my plants time to rest and recover, building strength for spring greening. The first seed catalogs have already arrived. Winter dreamtime is at hand…

Persian Ironwood glows in the late autumn landscape.

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