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Dear Harvey,A true sign of spring - Flowering dogwood in all its glory!Harvey Cotten
We want to replace the two overgrown maple and oak trees in our front yard. I want to put in a small, ornamental, flowering tree that is not messy and does not get out of control. What are some of the flowering trees that I should consider? I do not want a magnolia tree because they have large, broad leaves and are messy to rake up. Please let me know your thoughts. Pam S
With many landscaping projects, size does matter and often with an older home, the shade tree that was planted when the house was built has grown into such a large behemoth that overpowers the site. With two such trees in your yard I imagine that it can be overwhelming. I would be happy to make a few suggestions and I will try to control myself and keep it to just a few there are so many wonderful choices out there and several that are not utilized in the landscape near as much as they should be.
Since you are taking two trees out I am going to give you five suggestions to consider for replacements. By the time I get to the end of the article I will probably want to write about five more choices but that is what is so wonderful about gardening the fantastic plants we have at our disposal to use in our landscapes.
By losing two large shade trees, you will be feeling somewhat exposed now to the outside world. While wanting a smaller growing tree is definitely desirable, I do think you will want something that will give you a bit of height (say fifteen to twenty feet tall) within a few years just to keep house grounded to the surroundings. With that in mind I would suggest planting one of the larger growing Crapemyrtles as a tree. One of the biggest mistakes we have made with using Crapemyrtles in the landscape is that we have planted these very large growing plants too close to the house where their fast growth and mature height was a detriment as opposed to an attribute. One thing I love about Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia x la-ger-STR-me-ah) is that they are truly a four season plant. Their winter silhouette with the multi-cane trunks and exfoliating bark exposing rich colors of mahogany and cinnamon, truly stand out during these cold winter months. In spring the glossy green leaves unfurl covering the plant almost like an umbrella. The hot days of summerarrive and that is when the show really begins. Crapemyrtle has one of the longest bloom periods of any tree, with flowers present for over 100 days. After the flowers have faded, fall arrives and most cultivars change into rich shades of yellow, orange and red before the leaves fall and the cycle begins again. Pink, white, red and lavender selections are available with names like Miami , Biloxi , Natchez , Arapaho and Wichita .
The next two suggestions are both trees native to the southeastern United States with beautiful white flowers. The Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina ha-LEE-zhi-ah kar-oh-LI-na) grows twenty to thirty feet tall with a spread of fifteen to twenty-five feet. In spring, beautiful bell shaped flowers hang from the bare branches creating quite a floral display. Foliage color is a medium green with a nice yellow tint in fall. The Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea am-e-LANG-key-er are-BO-re-ah) is another great choice with three seasons of interest. Beautiful white flowers come out in April followed by crisp, green foliage and bright red berries in summer. One of the other common names is Juneberry due to this early fruit ripening. This is a great tree to use for wildlife, especially songbirds for they love these tasty fruits in the summer. In fall, brilliant shades of red and orange light up the tree before winter arrives.
The last two suggestions are Fringe tree and Dogwood. Here is one way to get a few more choices in the mix because both of these trees have a native species and an exotic species that make excellent landscape plants. With Fringe tree we have the native selection Grancy Gray Beard (Chionanthus virginicus ki-oh-NAN-thus ver-JIN-i-kus) that has the most beautiful, fleecy white flowers that open just as the leaves are unfurling. In mid-summer blue fruits ripen and hang like clusters of grapes on the tree. Again, birds love these fruits so plant and watch the songbirds flock at feeding time. The Chinese Fringe tree (C. retusus rey-TU-sus) is a great choice also. In late April, after the leaves have emerged, the tree is literally covered in small, white flowers that look like snow has fallen a truly spectacular sight. Fall color is a golden yellow and this tree can grow broader than tall.
With Dogwood we have two options our native dogwwod, Cornus florida (KOR-nus FLOR-i-da) and the Chinese dogwood C. kousa (C. KOO-sa). Seletions of Corus florida can have white, pink or red flowers (actually bracts the flowers are greenish yellow) and all have excellent fall color. The fruit clusters are a brilliant red and are very showy in late fall. The Chinese dogwood also has white bracts but flowers at a later time usually for us in mid-May. The green foliage makes an impressive backdrop to the showy white bracts as they open. The fruits of the Chines dogwood resemble a large red raspberry and this tree also has excellent fall color.
I hope this helps you with your decision remember, now is the perfect time to plant trees in north Alabama.
Tips of the Week:
If a freeze threatens your camellia flowers, cut and bring inside to enjoy. Also, now is the time to select C. sasanqua cultivars while they are in bloom for planting in the garden
After flowers of fall blooming chrysanthemums and asters have faded, cut back plants to three to six inches tall
Remove all fallen leaves and mulch around roses and discard. This debris is home to many disease organisms that are over-wintering and waiting to emerge next spring
I look forward to answering all of your gardening questions. Please send your inquiries via email to . For those of you who prefer regular mail, please send to Harvey Cotten c/o The Huntsville Botanical Garden, 4747 Bob Wallace Ave; Hsv, AL 35805. The Garden s website
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