Spring's loveliest trees

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I took a long walk this afternoon and was bowled over by the beauty of the flowering trees – from deciduous magnolias and several kinds of ornamental cherries to pink and white dogwoods and the charming old-fashioned flowers of crab apples.

They were almost always accompanied by underplantings of multicolored tulips. So often the trees were massed in rows or groupings, which definitely multiplies their impact when they’re covered with blooms, as they are now.

It was a highlight of spring for me. Never mind that it was so cold and windy that I was sorry I hadn’t worn wool gloves. That’s Boston.

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I’m not sure why I see few redbuds here. (I live in the city; maybe there are more of them in the suburbs.) They’re among my favorite flowering trees. I plant them wherever I live and find them carefree.

I’ve grown Forest Pansy, which has purplish leaves and has to be protected somewhat from the sun. (It’s hardy only to Zone 6.) It’s an attractive curiosity. But mostly I’ve planted unnamed redbuds that nurseries generally have priced reasonably, and all have shone.

One nice thing about living in a cold climate is that in mid-May I still am able to look forward to the bloom of Cornus kousa or Chinese dogwoods. In many places around the US, these aren’t planted nearly enough. They’re a good choice for extending spring’s season of bloom several weeks beyond the flowering dogwood.

The flowers are larger than on common flowering dogwood, and you’ll either like the way they’re arranged on the tree or not. (I do.) But you may want to try planting a kousa dogwood where you can look down on it from above. One cultivar that blooms a long, long time is called Summer Stars.

Somehow, in fall, when we think ahead to spring, we gardeners tend to concentrate on daffodils, tulips, crocus, and other bulbs. And I can’t imagine spring without them.

But flowering trees are a longer-lasting contribution to the season. And they fit nicely with my no-fuss gardening philosophy: You plant a tree once and it blooms every year from then on without any effort (or very little) from you.

That’s a good long-term investment.

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