Rare Flowering Trees That Light Up Your Garden Landscape

Flowering apricot trees offer spectacular flowering blooms earlier than any other flowering tree, sometimes blooming as early as January. This early flowering can result in cold weather damage in some areas of the United States. New outstanding cultivars of flowering apricot trees can be purchased from mail order nursery retailers. Prunus mume flowers, in early spring with flower colors of red, pink, and white, all blooming on the same twigs of the tree. Double flowers of apricot, dark-red cover the limbs of the flowering apricot, Matsubara Red. Pure white flowers appear in early spring on the flowering apricot, Rosemary Clarke, and the pink flowering, weeping apricot, W.B. Clarke, blooms in January. Rose-red flowers appear on the flowering apricot tree, Peggy Clarke, in early spring.

Mimosa flowering trees, Albizia julibrissin 'Rosea', was introduced into the United States from the Orient, and was commonly known as the 'Silk Tree'. The feather red or pink blooms cover the mimosa branches in summer, and the fragile graceful leaves are fern-like, and they flutter in air when wafted by the slightest breeze. The Mimosa tree can be grown in almost any type of soil and is cold hardy from zones 6 – 10.

Flowering Peach trees, Prunus persica, were very commonly seen and grown in the early United States, but a gardener faces a difficult task to find a large flowering peach tree to buy at a nursery. Pink flowering peach trees, Prunus persica 'Pink', cultivars can be purchased to bloom either early or late; White flowering peach, Prunus persica 'White', can also be purchased in an early or late blooming cultivar; Prunus persica 'White Icicle', Peppermint flowering peach trees produce variegated flowers randomly colored petals of red, pink, and white. The Helen Borchers flowering cherry, Prunus persica 'Helen Borchers' is a recent outstanding blooming.

Redbud flowering trees, Cercis canadensis, are also known as the Eastern Redbud tree and were first collected to plant at the home of John Bartram, the famous early American botanist of the 1700's. In early spring the leafless twigs are completely covered with red-pink flowers, qualifying this redbud tree as a favorite, native American flowering tree to plant and grow in the garden landscape.

The flowering honeylocust tree, Gleditsia triacanthus inermis, is one of the most beautiful of all early spring blooming trees. Gardeners find it difficult to locate and buy honeylocust trees from a nursery. The fragrant white flowers appear along with the airy fern-like leaves that flutter as a bright green backdrop to the glowing, pure-white flowers that attract a host of bird species to nest in the dense honeylocust branches.

The Wisteria, Wisteria sinensis, is usually thought of as being a vine, but the vine habit can be overcome, if it is staked after grafting and trained to grow as a wisteria tree. Wisteria sinensis 'Cooke's Purple', grows into a fragrant, purple stream of pea-like flowers, trailing long and followed by green, glistening leaves that are cold hardy from zone 5 – 9. A grape-like cluster of purple flowers emit a fragrance of grapes with pure white blooms in the cultivar; Wisteria tree, Wisteria sinensis 'Texas White', is an excellent white-flowering Wisteria tree.

A number of less pursued flowering trees are: Japanese Snowball Tree, Viburnum plicatum, that flowers in summer and again in the fall if abundant water is applied. The grapefruit size, greenish-white flower clusters are stunning and dramatic, as they bloom before the leaves appear. The Jerusalem tree, Parkinsomia aculeata, is also called the 'Jew Tree'; by tradition was rumored to be the tree that was used to prepare the 'crown of thorns' that was placed on the head of the crucified, Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. The fern-like leaves provide a background of green to view the golden yellow flowers that begin blooming in summer and then reappear several times until frost. Paulownia, Blue Princess or Empress Tree, produces spectacular clusters of purple-blue flowers, sometimes growing three feet in length. This fast growing tree is best known for being planted as a commercial timber tree investment by former President, Jimmy Carter. Red Tips, Photinia fraseri, is best known in the spring growing bright red tips and waxy leaves, however, red tip is very fast growing, and in late spring, following the tips of leaves reddening, giant clusters of fragrant white flowers cover the tree. Scarlet locust trees, Sesbania grandifloria, is a native tree to the United States, growing vigorously in wetlands and producing brilliant scarlet blooms in the spring. The flowers completely cover the twigs of the tree with a backdrop of bright-green, fern-like leaves, delicately fluttering in the slightest breeze. Very few trees offer recurring flowers of such brilliant colors like Scarlet locust trees, Sesbania grandiflora.

Sweetbay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana, produces bold-white, lemon scented blooms, appearing much like a miniature Southern Magnolia flower, Magnolia grandiflora. The waxy, Sweetbay magnolia blooms appear, beginning in the fall. This evergreen magnolia tree has fragrant bark and leaves that can be substituted for the herb, bay leaves. Sweetbay magnolia trees turn dramatic colors of red, yellow, and orange during the fall, but fall intermittently followed by waxy-green new leaves. Even though the Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, is classified as an evergreen shade tree, it is famous for the gorgeous fragrant flowers of huge proportions, one foot wide, that bloom in early summer. Renowned Artists of paints and cameras have admired the glorious Magnolia blossom and chose to pose them to compose masterpiece works that would be celebrated in Museums of the World. Many hybridizers have chosen to genetically create Japanese Magnolias of many sizes and colors; white, red, pink, purple and red. Some mail order nurseries offer sites to buy outstanding hybrids like: Alexander Magnolia, Brooklyn Girls magnolia trees, Butterfly magnolia, Little Gem magnolia tree, Leonard Messel magnolia shrub, Randy Magnolia Bush, Southern Select magnolia tree, Star White magnolia, Sunsation magnolia, Wada's Memory magnolia tree, and Yellow Lantern Magnolia trees.

Gordonia flowering tree, Gordonia lasianthus, is also known as the loblolly bay tree, that is closely related to and similar to the “Lost Gordonia”, that had almost become extinct, except for the fortunate rescue by famous botanist and explorer, William Bartram, who in 1773 wrote in his book, Travels, page 465, a memorable description. The flowering tree was named by him after his good friend, Benjamin Franklin, Franklinia altamaha, “I had the opportunity of observing the new flowering shrub, resembling the Gordonia, in perfect bloom, as well as bearing ripe fruit. It is a flowering tree of the first order, for beauty and fragrance of blossoms...the flowers are very large, expand themselves perfectly, and are of snow white colour, and ornamental with a crown of tassel of gold coloured refulgent staminae...” We never saw it grow in any other place, nor have I ever seen it growing wild, in all my travels from Pennsylvania...to the Mississippi.” Cassia trees, are covered completely in in the fall with golden yellow flowers in late fall growing to 12 feet tall. Cassia trees are cold hardy in zones 8 – 10, and the beautiful fern-like leaves almost escape notice when the Cassia tree is in full bloom. The Chaste Tree, Vitex agnus-castus, is covered with flowers in summer and fall with fragrant flowers in colors of blue or white being available to buy. The gray-green leaves of the Chaste trees are very fragrant, and the trees are cold hardy in Zones 6 - 10.

By Pat Rick