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Landscaping with Trees for Seasonal Interest

As a lifelong gardener and lover of all things green, I’m always on the lookout for trees that offer more than just a solid shade canopy. Sure, a big ol’ oak or maple is great, but why not incorporate some more dynamic, multi-season performers into your landscape? That’s where trees with seasonal interest really shine.

The Katsura Tree: A Sweet Sensation

One of my personal favorites is the katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). This stunning specimen has been a fixture in my garden for years, and its unique charms never cease to delight. Just imagine a tree that can transition from reddish-purple new growth in spring to a subtle blue-green through summer, before turning into a glorious buttery yellow-to-apricot display in the fall. Oh, and did I mention the subtly sweet cotton candy-like fragrance it emanates as those autumn leaves change color? Yep, this tree is a veritable feast for the senses.

I first encountered the katsura many years ago while working at the Anderson Japanese Gardens. Those four specimens I cared for were absolute show-stoppers, and I’ve been smitten ever since. The way the light played off their slightly shaggy bark and danced through the heart-shaped foliage was mesmerizing. Even on the grayest of days, the katsura’s vibrant hues seemed to brighten the entire garden.

As I’ve learned, the katsura is a true four-season stunner. Those reddish-purple new leaves in spring gradually transition to a serene blue-green as summer wears on. But the real magic happens in the fall, when the foliage erupts in a symphony of buttery yellows and apricot hues. And just when you think it can’t get any better, that subtle, almost cotton candy-like fragrance wafts through the air, beckoning you to come take a closer sniff.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – a non-native tree that doesn’t support much local wildlife? That’s a tough sell for me too. But hear me out. While the katsura may not be a host plant for our native insects and the birds that feed on them, it more than makes up for it with its sheer visual appeal. And let’s be honest, sometimes we need a little non-native flair to balance out all the native goodness, right?

A Weeping Wonder: The Seven Son Flower

Another multi-season stunner that’s captivated me is the seven son flower tree (Heptacodium miconioides). Also known as the “hardy crape myrtle” or “summer lilac,” this graceful small tree or large shrub is a sight to behold.

In spring, the large, handsome leaves emerge, setting the stage for the real show to come. As summer progresses, the foliage grows even more impressive, developing a long, twisting tip that just adds to the tree’s allure. But the main event happens in late summer and fall, when the seven son flower bursts into bloom with clusters of incredibly fragrant, creamy white flowers.

I can just imagine the honeybees and other pollinators flocking to this feast, basking in the aromatic floral display. And just when you think it can’t get any better, the flowers drop to the ground, revealing vivid red fan-like bracts that make it look like the tree is blooming all over again in a completely different color.

But the seven son flower’s party tricks don’t stop there. As winter approaches and the leaves drop, the tree’s elegant frame is revealed, showcasing its amazing exfoliating tan bark. Talk about a year-round showstopper!

The folks at Gardenia.net couldn’t have said it better – the seven son flower truly is a tree that delivers “outstanding interest” to the landscape, all while requiring minimal care. And let’s not forget that Today’s Gardens honored it with the prestigious Cary Award back in 2002, recognizing it as an outstanding plant for New England gardens.

Magnificent Magnolias

Of course, no discussion of trees with seasonal interest would be complete without mentioning the magnificent magnolia. These stately beauties are the epitome of spring splendor, bursting forth with their enormous, dinner plate-sized blooms in shades of white, pink, and purple.

But the magnolia’s charms don’t end there. As summer rolls in, the lush, glossy green foliage takes center stage, providing a verdant backdrop for the tree’s architectural form. And then, just when you think it can’t get any better, the leaves transform into brilliant golden hues in the fall, bidding farewell to the growing season with a grand finale.

I’ll never forget the first time I encountered a magnolia in full bloom. It was like stepping into a fairytale, with those massive, fragrant flowers practically glowing in the spring sunshine. I stood there in awe, mesmerized by the sheer beauty of it all. And let me tell you, that feeling never gets old.

Now, I know magnolias can be a bit finicky, requiring well-drained, acidic soil and protection from harsh winds. But trust me, the payoff is more than worth it. Whether you opt for a stately tulip magnolia or a more compact star magnolia, these trees are guaranteed to be the talk of the neighborhood come springtime.

Bringing it all Together

As you can probably tell, I’m a bit of a tree enthusiast. And when it comes to landscaping with trees that offer seasonal interest, the possibilities are truly endless. From the katsura’s sweet fragrance to the seven son flower’s show-stopping blooms to the magnolia’s timeless elegance, there’s a tree out there to suit any gardener’s taste.

The key, of course, is to strike the right balance. You don’t want to go overboard and end up with a hodgepodge of competing elements. Instead, consider how each tree’s unique attributes can complement the others, creating a harmonious, visually captivating landscape.

Maybe start with a stately magnolia as the focal point, then accent it with a graceful seven son flower and a few katsura trees for added interest. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try a mix of native and non-native species, like a native oak paired with a Japanese maple or a weeping cherry?

The possibilities are endless, really. And the best part? You get to play landscape designer, experimenting with different combinations and seeing what works best for your unique space. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your seasonal tree-scaping adventure today!

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

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