After a long cold winter, small ornamental flowering trees are among the first garden plants to brighten up the landscape and announce the arrival of spring. The following are a few classic spring flowering trees for the garden.
Eastern Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are treasured for their stunning pink and lavender (though white is available as well) flowers which bloom on bare stems in spring. It develops ornamental fruit later in the season. Perfect for the woodland garden, eastern redbud trees are tolerant shady conditions. Eastern redbud trees grow to be 20′-30′ high and spread 20′-30′ in diameter.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.) is a small tree which can reach 15 to 25 feet in height, and smaller or equal in spread. It’s often grown as a multi-stemmed tall shrub as well. The flowers are white and abundant. Serviceberries are ideal for the woodland garden or for areas beneath large shade trees as they are a native understory plant in the temperate forests. In fall, their leaves turn vibrant yellow, red or orange. Later in the season, serviceberry develops blue edible fruit, which attracts birds and are quite showy.
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) has rounded bracts in tones of red, pink or white. The actual flowers in the center of the colorful bracts are greenish-yellow. Mature height is 15 to 30 feet with an equal or greater spread. it’s a great year-round tree as its fall foliage is bronze-colored and its red fruit lasts into winter. ‘Cherokee Chief’ dogwood is a red blooming variety with a horizontal branching structure and is one of the best flowering trees available. This variety grow to a height of 20′-25′ and spread 12′-15′.
Note: In recent years, flowering dogwoods have been subject to dogwood blight, a fungus disease. Plenty of air circulation and sunlight help prevent this disease.
Kousa Dogwoods (Cornus kousa) bloom somewhat later than the Cornus florida and usually bear white, star-shaped blooms. Most cultivars are white and slowly turn pink. However, cultivars that initially have pink bracts are also available. Kousa dogwood typically blooms a couple weeks after flowering dogwood. Fall foliage is purplish-red. The red berries of Japanese flowering dogwood trees persist into winter and attract bird to the garden. Average height and spread of 15′-30′. ‘
Crabapple trees (Malus sp.) have long been a gardener’s favorite. They’re a small tree that grows to between 10 and 30 feet in both height and width. The number of varieties available is seemingly endless. Its flowers range from pink to white to purple. The crabapple fruit provides ornamental interest through fall and winter.
Washington Hawthornes (Crataegus phaenopyrum) blooms in early spring with a abundance of small (½ inch diameter) white flowers. It is a broadly oval to rounded, dense, thorny tree. The foliage is a reddish purple when unfolding and gradually changing to lustrous dark green at maturity. The Washington Hawthorne’s fruit is a bright which attracts birds and other wildlife. It’s great tree for the garden as a specimen, hedge or screen. It‘s also tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions including drought and salt. The leaves turn beautiful scarlet and purple colors in fall.
Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’) is a beautiful spring-blooming tree with showy white flowers before its leaves develop. Bradford pears are more narrow than other flowering trees, growing 30 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide, and as such are perfect of screening. Bradford pears are also ideal as specimens in the landscape or, because they’re tolerant of pollution, for urban areas. The Bradford pear grows best in full sun but will tolerate part shade. In the fall the leaves turn mahogany-red and then sometimes bright orange-red by late autumn.
Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) blooms on bare stems with flowers which are rose to purple outside, with a soft, white interior. This slow growing tree reaches 20′-30′ in both height and width and is ideal for the small garden. In autumn the leaves turn yellow to bronze before. Also makes an excellent addition to woodland gardens and to other shady areas.
Soon after the star magnolia blooms, the Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) begins to flower on bare stems. Depending upon the variety, the saucer magnolia will have large saucer-shaped, pink, white or purple flower. Some, however, have pure white interiors with exteriors of purple to pink. Mildly fragrant, the flowers typically have nine petals. The 1 inch long flower buds are fuzzy in late winter. It is often grown as a multi-trunk small tree ranging from 20 to 25 feet in height with a similar spread. The saucer magnolia is ideal as both a specimen and as part of a mixed shrub border.
Flowering cherry trees are one of the most lovely sights in the spring. Two varieties, in my mind stand out; the Kwanzan and Higan cherries.
The very popular Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata) is a pink double-flowering cherry which grows to 30 feet. Kwanzan’s buds open in early spring and are spectacular. Like all flowering cherries it needs well drained soil. It can grow well in partial shade or full sun, though those grown in full sun offer the best flowers. It’s hardy to Zone 5. Kwanzan is an upright flowering cherry, and can be used in groupings, or as a single tree in your landscape.
Higan Cherry (Prunus subhirtella) is a very popular weeping variety of cherry. The flowers aren’t long lasting but the combination of the hanging branches and the blooms makes it very graceful in appearance. It grows well in Zones 5-8. This variety also needs a quick draining soil. Higan cherries will grow to 20 feet, and as much as 40 foot. It blooms from early to mid spring and can have white or pink flowers, some single and some double. This type of cherry grows fairly quickly though is somewhat short lived when compared to the others.
These flowering trees are an essential part of any garden. Most are relatively small so even gardens with limited space can enjoy their colorful spring displays.