Trees for the Early Spring Garden

Spring bulbs and flowering trees are the first signs of early spring in my garden. Looking up and looking down seems to be where the interest lies.  I recently planted a few spring flowering trees and boy did it make a difference to the garden. Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’- Higan Cherry is hardy to zone 4, is out now and has held up to wind, snow and hard frost of the past two weeks.   This is a delicate, but obviously tough flowering cherry much more to my liking than those heavy blossoms of the Kwanzan cherry you see in the south.

Prunus subhirtella-Autumnalis Higan Cherry

Prunus Subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’

Another Cherry worth growing in the cold north is Prunus Sargentii- Sargent Cherry hardy to zone 4, the flower is a little pinker than Autumnalis and it flowers a bit earlier.  It has the advantage of lovely pink blossoms and a copper colored leaf that emerges after the flower. The copper colored leaves will turn green in early summer.  I suppose all spring flowering trees are susceptible to getting hit by hard frost.  My star magnolias got fried this year, but they still produced some flowers once it warmed up again.

Prunus sargentii after flowering- emerging copper colored leaves

Another tree that seems to weather the winter-like conditions of our northern spring is Amelanchier Canadensis- Shadowblow Serviceberry is our dogwood of the north. This is a beautiful tree with a delicate white flower that emerges in front of delicate cooper colored leaves. It grows all over the northeast and is one of the first trees to flower. I planted one on my pond and though it is still young it looks terrific reflected in the pond.

Amelanchier Canadensis – a very young tree

Cercidphyllum Japaonicum- Katsura tree is a fantastic tree worthy of our northern gardens. I have yet to see the flower on this tree but the emerging copper colored leaves are stunning.  The leaves change a lot during the year from bronzy purple to light green and then blue-green and in fall to an apricot rich yellow!

Cercidphyllum Japonicum -Katsura tree in spring before flowering.

Cercidphyllum Japonicum -Katsura tree in spring before flowering.

I have also planted several fruit trees including a Keiffer pear, several plum trees and an apricot tree which all have beautiful flowers. Most of my fruit trees are still too young to photograph being just sticks! Once you have a few early flowering trees spring will take on a whole new beauty even if it’s still cold!

Kieffer Pear tree about to flower

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4 Responses to Trees for the Early Spring Garden

  1. Deborah Banks says:

    I’ve never heard that katsura trees bloom, or noticed blooms on mine. I just googled and read they are “insignificant”. I think my trees must both be male, as I’m sure I’m not getting winged seeds in the fall.

    • Don Statham says:

      Hi Deborah- My mistake In Dirr’s Hardy Trees & shrubs there is a photo next to the Katsura tree but on closer inspection it’s a Cephalanthus flower. Whoops sorry.

      • Deborah Banks says:

        Actually I thought you were just expressing a sophisticated appreciation for the subtle botanical process. I never thought of Katsuras as blooming but when I googled yesterday, I learned that there is both a male and a female tree and both have “flowers”. But I’ve never noticed them on mine.

      • Don Statham says:

        We will have to keep our eyes peeled this spring!

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