Summer Flowering Trees Extend Spring’s Bounty Of Blooms
Summer Flowering Trees Extend Spring’s Bounty Of Blooms
By Nancy Buley, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., Wholesale Tree Growers
Photographs courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
Think flowering trees, and spring comes to mind. The blossom parade begins with ornamental plums, pears, magnolias, cherries, and carries on through redbuds, crabapples and dogwoods. Spring is a tough act to follow, but the joy of flowering trees needn’t end with April showers and May flowers.
By choosing trees that reserve their flowers for the long days of summer, you can enjoy tree blooms in summer and create a bee-friendly haven for pollinators, too. By planting several in your landscape, you can achieve a summer-long sequence of blooms, shade and beauty.
Tulip Tree flower (Liriodendron tulipifera).
Thanks to its lush foliage and cool shade, our native tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is often overlooked as a summer flowering tree. A closer look in late May and June reveals unique, 2 to 3-inch diameter, tulip-shaped, greenish-yellow flowers with orange centers. The species serves as a preferred food source and a haven for hummingbirds, honeybees, tiger swallowtail butterflies and other pollinators. While seedlings can grow to be forest giants, several cultivars offer smaller, more garden-appropriate trees: Fastigiatum is a columnar form. Little Volunteer is a compact form that that is described in The Tree Book as “a cute little tree and wonderful for the smaller garden, it fits in spaces that a full-sized tuliptree would soon outgrow.”
Emerald City® Tulip Tree leaf at left.
Glossy dark green leaves that turn to bright, clear yellow in autumn distinguish Emerald City® Tulip Tree from trees of seedling origin. This new cultivar is more compact and symmetrical than trees of the species and develops a distinctively uniform, relatively narrow, upright oval canopy.
Ivory Silk® Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’).
Tree Lilacs flaunt their billowy plumes of creamy white flowers above dark green foliage in late spring. Adaptability to urban growing conditions, upright vase shape and pest and disease resistance recommends their use as small-stature shade or street trees that are a good fit beneath utility lines (UtiliTrees™). Ivory Silk® Japanese Tree Lilac has dark green, heat tolerant leaves that turn golden yellow in autumn. China Snow® Tree Lilac, and Beijing Gold® Peking Lilac are garden-worthy introductions of Chicagoland Grows®.
Japanese Snowbells (Styrax japonicus) ring in the lazy days of summer with pendulous white, bell-shaped flowers. For best performance choose cultivars. Among the top performers are the narrowly upright, profuse blooming Snowcone® Snowbell and Evening Light Snowbell: Its glossy purple-black foliage provides a dramatically dark backdrop for a profusion of fragrant white, bell shaped flowers. Spring Showers, selected by the U.S. National Arboretum, flowers relatively late and is a good choice where late spring frosts are prevalent. Top performing weeping cultivars include Fragrant Fountain and the pink-blooming Marley’s Pink™ Snowbell.
Yellowwood flower(Cladrastis kentukea).
Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) leaves unfurl a bright yellowish green and darken to medium green in summer. Long panicles of pea-like, fragrant white flowers appear among the small, rounded compound leaves in early summer. Foliage turns golden yellow in autumn.
Upright arching branches give an elm-like, vase shape to this refined shade tree. Its open, spreading canopy and deep roots make this North American native tree a good shade tree choice for gardening beneath its canopy. Smooth light gray bark enhances its graceful winter silhouette.
Though uncommon in the wild, yellowwood adapts well to urban settings, tolerating high pH as well as acid soils. As its name indicates, Perkins Pink Yellowwood sports pendulous pink blooms.
MaacNificent Maackia flower(Maackia amurensis).
Amur Maackia (Maackia amurensis) is an attractive small tree that performs well in harsh environments. USDA Zone 3 hardiness and the ability to thrive in poor soils, acid or alkaline, make this nitrogen fixer a great choice for difficult sites.
Narrow, compound leaves drape from upright branches to give the tree a cool, airy look. Glossy, dark green foliage is complemented by white flowers in mid-summer. These are borne on stiff, upright racemes when few other trees are in bloom. With a track record of no serious insect and disease problems, Amur maackia is often found on lists of recommended pest-resistant ornamentals. MaacNificent® Maackia is our introduction, notable for vigorous, upright growth habit and symmetrical form.
Japanese Stewartia flower (Stewartia pseudocamellia).
Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) blossoms are gems among the leaves of summer. Camellia-like blossoms are white with bright orange centers. These create a surprising contrast against the dark green leaves of late June and July. Fall color ranges from an excellent dark purplish red to bright orange red. As the tree matures, exfoliating bark reveals beautiful cream, tan and brown patches on the trunk and larger branches. In winter, the sensuous bark is appreciated for its rich color and smooth texture. Tall Stewartia (S. monadelpha) blooms are smaller but more numerous. Smooth orange-brown bark is remarkable in winter.
Trees described in this article generally bloom in late spring and early to mid-summer. Stay tuned for next month’s article in which mid- to late summer and fall bloomers are featured.
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