The Q&A Archives: orchid tree in berkeley?

Question: I'm looking for a tropical tree for the centerpiece of my very protected Berkeley, Ca courtyard patio. Can I make the Hong Kong Orchid tree happy? We are zone 9. But I don't want it to just squeak by... I want it to thrive... what do you think? Any other suggestions? I need it to by pretty small, but want to be able to walk under it eventually. My look is somewhat Mexican.

Thanks a lot for your help. Paula

Answer: Bauhinia blakeana, the Hong Kong Orchid tree, is a spectacular specimen tree reaching 25' high and wide. They produce 5-6" wide flowers from late fall through early spring, making them an attraction for quite a long time. It would be my first choice for the area you describe. You might also consider one of the smaller magnolia trees such as Magnolia grandiflora 'Edith Bogue'. This is an evergreen tree growing 35' high and 20' wide with white flowers throughout the summer and into the fall, or 'Victoria' an evergreen 20' tall and 15' wide. A final suggestion is the deciduous Paulownia tomentosa, also called Empress Tree. Early in the spring, before the heart-shaped leaves appear, it produces clusters of fragrant, trumpet-shaped lilac blue flowers. It's a real show stopper! The growth habit is similar to Catalpa; broad crown, multi-branched and heavy trunked. Hope one of these trees appeals to you!

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