Flowering trees add vivid bursts of color

For me, at this time of year, nothing lifts my spirits quite like the sight of the beautiful flowering trees that Cheryl and I have planted over the years as part of our landscape. And it’s not just our trees. Driving around the neighborhood I can see splashes of crimson, pink and snow white where, only a few weeks ago there were only greys and muted browns.

Maybe you’ve seen some colorful trees that really delighted you, but you weren’t sure what they were exactly and so you couldn’t your own specimens or even investigate them online.

Here is a quick glance at some of the most spectacular and breathtaking flowering trees (at least in my opinion!) that should help you identify your favorites as you plan some eye-popping color for your own landscape!

Crape Myrtle “Dynamite”

Let’s start with a bang: This thing really does look like an explosion, the vivid red blooms bursting outwards as if caught in a freeze-frame by an action movie director. As you can tell, I really like this one!

I first saw this particular Myrtle variety while leaving a drive-through restaurant and immediately circled back to take a photo. With some detective work, I tracked down the plant to a nearby nursery wholesaler and just had to buy a few for our own landscape!

It grows quickly, is fairly mildew-resistant and reaches a mature height of between 10 and 20 feet. You can use it as a colorful border or screen, but I like to see them planted in groups of three, about 15 ft apart.

Cherry “First Lady” (Prunus campanulata okame x)

The name “First Lady” makes sense as soon as you see this cherry tree. It is slim, elegant and regal, reminding me of Jackie Kennedy or Nancy Reagan in front of the White House. The upright shape makes it a good choice where “spread” is an issue: expect a mature height of maybe 20 ft and a spread of 15 ft.

The bell-shaped flowers appear in mid April with a vibrant hue somewhere between deep pink and red. The blooms look stunning against the glossy, dark green leaves (which will turn to a warm yellow in the fall). First Lady grows quite quickly and does fine in full or partial sun or shade.

Venus Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa nuttalli)

This is a rare one but definitely worth seeking out, particularly if you like a dogwood with large (as in HUGE) flowers. A single creamy white bloom can entirely cover a man’s hand. It grows to about 20 ft tall and appears to be resistant to dogwood anthracnose and mildew.

The Venus was produced by Dr. Elwin Orton, Jr, a plant breeder at Rutgers University. It’s new and not easy to find. Try typing dogwood kousa venus into Google or send me an e-mail at [email protected] and I’ll help you.

Magnolia Sweetbay

This is probably my favorite magnolia because of the creamy white blossoms nestled in the vibrant, glossy green foliage. The blossoms give off a distinctive, almost lemony scent that seems evocative of an earlier, less hurried era.

Cheryl and I planted a Sweetbay near our mailbox so we could enjoy the fragrance and sight of the blossoms every morning from spring through late summer as we went out to pick up our mail. Sweetbay is evergreen to semi-evergreen and is tolerant of most soil from moist to wet in zones 5 through 9. Expect a mature height of 30 to 50 ft.

Those are just four of my personal flowering favorites. In a future column, I’ll review some more to help you add a vivid splash of color to your own outdoors. Meanwhile, drop me an e-mail if you need some personal suggestions for brightening up your landscape.