Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
January, 2004
Regional Report

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Ready and waiting for spring, a dogwood bud is magnified by a crystal coat of ice.

The Perfect Tree

The dogwood tree in my yard has been practicing its perfection act again, proving that there is no time of year when dogwoods aren't pretty. Between spring flowers, red leaves and berries in fall, and buds and branches that look great encased in ice, dogwoods deserve their popularity. But with tree-planting season right around the corner, I have some other species to suggest for landscapes that are already stocked with dogwoods, but could use more trees.

The muscular branches of native redbuds (Cercis canadensis) erupt with pink blossoms in spring, with some flowers appearing in crevices in the trunk. I like the big, heart-shaped leaves, too, and the way young trees sprawl their way through adolescence. If part of your yard includes a woodland edge, you have the perfect place for a redbud.

Want a larger tree for an open lawn? Consider golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata), which has a formal, symmetrical shape, yellow flowers in summer, followed by clusters of lantern-shaped seedpods that persist until autumn. A moderately fast grower, golden rain tree adapts to any well-drained soil, provided it gets close to a full day of sun.

Yoshino cherries (Prunus yedoensis) require a bit more care because drought stress increases their susceptibility to borers. But in places that are easy to get to with water, these enchanting cherries offer elegant form and beautiful flowers, and they grow fast, too.

Or how about a Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina)? Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata)? Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)? And let's not forget evergreens from native hollies to 'Little Gem' magnolia. As you can tell, I really like trees, which inspire me most in winter. Strength, constancy, and a long list of other virtues belong to trees, and gardeners should feel lucky to have the opportunity to plant one, or two, or three. Truth be told, every tree is a perfect tree.

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