Drifting Leaves: Can you smell the muffins?

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    The katsura tree's new growth in spring adds to its attractiveness.
    Photos courtesy of Penelope O'Sullivan.
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Yesterday I was pulling weeds in the front yard when I breathed in the scent of warm muffins. I was nowhere near a kitchen, so I sniffed again. Sure enough, my weeping katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’) had shed some leaves, giving off that glorious smell.

It’s early in the season for this, but there it was – dehiscent katsura leaves warmed by summer sun and perfuming the garden better than a Stargazer lily.

This tree smells good enough to eat, but that’s not the only reason to grow it. I love its shaggy red spring blooms, bronzed new growth, burnished gold fall color, sculptured winter form, and gray peeling bark. Visitors always notice it, because we prune its weeping stems to arch over a flagstone path.

If one katsura is good, then why not grow more? Bob and I acquired a pyramidal C. japonicum ‘Raspberry’ and finally C. japonicum ‘Rotfuchs’ (Red Fox katsura). The last, still in its container, is my birthday gift to Bob.

The genus name, Cercidiphyllum, refers to the tree’s heart-shaped leaves, which resemble those of Cercis  (redbud). We chose Red Fox for its striking foliage — maroon in spring, greener as the season progresses.

At the moment, the leaves on our new plant are red-tinged dark green with bright red stems, except the new growth, which is maroon. ‘Raspberry’ also has reddish leaves in spring, red leaf stems, and reddish fall color.

Katsuras are easy to grow in USDA Zones 4 to 8. For more information on these versatile trees, click here.

Penelope O'Sullivan, who will be writing about trees and shrubs at Diggin' It, is the author of "The Homeowner's Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook: The Essential Guide to Choosing, Planting, and Maintaining Perfect Landscape Plants." She has a landscape design business on the New Hampshire seacoast.

Editor’s note: For more on gardening, see the Monitor’s main gardening page. Our blog archive. Our RSS feed.

You may also want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos — and possibly win a prize. Deadline is Aug. 11. Join the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions.

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