Archive for Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bevy of blooms

Blossoming trees offer sightseeing sensations for spring enthusiasts

Maple blossoms

Maple blossoms

April 2, 2008


Tour of Flowering Trees

Here are some must-see trees that will be flowering the spring, according to Garden Spot columnist Jennifer Oldridge.

Maple tree

Maple tree

Peach tree

Peach tree

Tulip tree blossom

Tulip tree blossom

Some favorite ornamental trees from the Extension Master Gardeners of Douglas County:

¢ Eastern Redbud¢ Autumn Brilliance serviceberry¢ Sargent crabapple¢ Prairie Fire crabapple¢ Aristocrat or Cleveland Select flowering pear¢ Ivory Silk Japanese tree lilac¢ Saucer magnolia¢ Elizabeth magnolia

With the onset of spring, you might be spending your time looking toward the ground, admiring all of the daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, forsythia and other various usual spring suspects.

Why not adjust your sights upward for the ornamental trees, which are about to be at their finest and performing a stunning show?

I am a sucker for ornamental trees. There is a saucer magnolia down the street, and I may just have more photographs of its blooms than I have of my own children. I mean my kids are cute, but this tree is amazing!

The blossoming trees are a sure indication that spring has arrived, but you have to take advantage of all this eye candy at its peak, because the short-lived performance only comes once a year.

I asked a few regional experts what their favorite flowering dogwoods, cherry trees, crabapples, magnolias and redbud varieties are so Lawrence gardeners can select the cream of the crop to plant in their outdoor havens.


"My favorite flowering dogwood? Cornus Florida," says Reed Dillon, owner of Reed Dillon Landscaping. "You have to be careful when you site them, because they need afternoon shade to really perform well, and they prefer deep loam soils, not shallow, rocky limestone areas. They will reach a point where the branches have a graceful horizontal spread; the flowers are beautiful, the fruits interesting and the fall color is great."

Alan Branhagen, director of horticulture for Powell Gardens, has his preferred choice as well.

"My favorite dogwood is Cherokee Brave," he says. "The flowers are a rich almost red-pink shade to start but fade to a lovely coral pink in full bloom."

And for John McCaffrey, owner of Bittersweet Garden & Floral: "I like the Kousa dogwood because of its conical shape. And it blooms a bit later, plus it hardly ever gets sunburned."


I have a beautiful "Prairie Fire" crabapple that we planted with the ashes of our deceased dog, Cleo. It is in a prominent spot and reminds me to always cherish the moments at hand because they are so fleeting just like its blooms. But then the fruits flourish later and the birds enjoy her "spirited" fertilizer. It is a wonderful ornamental tree for both spring and autumn.

Branhagen has a favorite crabapple as well.

"'Harvest Gold,' with its red buds that open to white flowers a bit later in the season," he says. "The fruits are golden yellow and spectacular against a clear blue fall sky."


The Southern evergreen magnolia known as "Bracken's Brown Beauty" is one of Dillon's favorites. It has large, lemon-scented blooms in the summer.

He adds: "The 'Butterflies Magnolia,' which has butter-yellow blossoms in the spring, you don't usually see yellow blooming trees in the spring, and they have a light, pleasant fragrance. The Bracken's magnolias are large, evergreen trees that are quite hardy. They make a great screen."

Branhagen has had great success with the "Butterflies" variety as well, and he also adds that the new "Daybreak" variety is "a stunning coral pink and late-blooming magnolia."

Redbuds and Whitebuds

"I love whitebuds, both for the shape and the look when in bloom." States Dillon, "My favorite redbud is the 'Oklahoma' redbud, which has beautiful glossy leaves and a deeper pink blossom than the redbuds that grow wild."

There is a popular new cultivar 'Hearts of Gold' whose budding foliage emerges golden to salmon in color and then gradually ages to the standard green.


"'Snow Fountain' has been 100 percent reliable for us and is readily available," says Branhagen. "We have trained one in a spiral which adds to the living sculptural look."

Dillon has his favorite as well.

"I like the 'Yoshino' cherry," he says. "It has a nice spreading habit, 20 feet by 15 feet, with pale pink to white blossoms and is spectacular in full bloom. These are the trees that surround the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C."

So get out on one of these fine spring days and start looking up at the bevy of blooms floating above our heads, wafting sweet scents into the breeze and beckoning nature lover's to soak in the show before the curtain comes down and we have to wait until next spring for an encore.

- Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.


LawrenceLover88 10 years, 2 months ago

Nice story! I'll have to look for the trees you mention...Keep up the great work!

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