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Choosing Trees

Of all the plants in the landscape, trees are the most enduring. Whether we’re choosing a flowering tree for seasonal interest or shade trees, it doesn’t matter. Select ones that are well adapted and of a proper size for the landscape.

Redbuds are one of the jewels of spring. I’ve never found the redbud pods to be a problem. However, homeowners that do so can select a fruitless cultivar called Don Egolf, named for the very well-known planter breeder at the National Arboretum. Don Egolf redbud will grow to about nine feet in height and be slightly larger in width. This slow growing compact plant can be grown as a multi-stemmed shrub if desired. Don Egolf redbud has attractive dark green foliage that is resistant to pests. During the very early spring it produces rosy, mauve blossoms. Bumblebees flock to redbud because the flowers are so rich in nectar and pollen. Don’t be afraid when you hear the tree buzzing with this activity, for bumblebees rarely ever sting unless they’re under attack.

Magnolias are favorite Southern trees. They can be relied on for both their lovely blossoms and attractive foliage. Alta, a Southern magnolia, was discovered in Georgia. It is a superior, upright, narrow tree. Though it can ultimately reach forty feet or so in height, it will only be fifteen to twenty five feet wide. Alta is quick growing.

Not to be outdone by the Southern magnolias, the saucer magnolias have several additions as well. Of the newer ones, the Milky Way is extremely nice. It has ten-inch wide flowers that are heavily textured. They have a pleasant musky fragrance. The white-flushed blossoms are almost pure white with pink tinges on the inside, while the outside is pale violet-pink. Athene is noted for its unusual fragrance, lemony to almost licorice-scented. These handsome blooms are nearly a foot wide. They are ivy white with a pink blush at the base of the petals. Forest Pink also has lovely blossoms, fragrant, and pink. They’re slightly smaller than the others, only eight inches across.

Elms aren’t usually a tree we would associate with the South. But the lacebark elm may change that. The Bosque lacebark elm was discovered in Loganville, Georgia. Bosque has a very nice shape. It has an upright pyramidal shape with a good strong trunk. Resistant to elm leaf beetle and Dutch elm disease, Bosque tolerates hot, dry growing conditions. Choose a spot in full sun with well drained soil. The leaves are yellow-orange in the fall.

As the native dogwoods have become under attack by the anthracnose, the Kousa or Japanese dogwood has come to the rescue. There is even a new variegated kousa, Kristin Lipka’s variegated weeper. The outer margins of the leaves have an irregular white border. Sometimes, the leaves will also be splashed with white. For fall, as the rest of the foliage becomes a darker red, the leaf border turns pinkish-red. The tree has distinctive weeping branches. Robert Lipka discovered the original weeping branch in PA.

Ginkgos are native to Asia, but they seem to feel very much at home in most areas of the U.S.. I’ve seen very nice specimens growing on the campus at Clemson University. Golden Globe is a new ginko. These are male plants, so there will be no annoying fruits falling on patios or sidewalks. Compared with most ginkgos, it is faster growing and is very densely branched. Like other ginkgos, Golden Globe is resistant to heat, air pollution, and salt. It isn’t fussy about pH either. Golden Globe was discovered as seedling in Georgia.

Whenever you’re choosing trees and other landscape plants, consider the features of the plants as well as the growing conditions. Then select the best one for your situation.

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