Saturday, April 19, 2014

Native Grace

In early to mid April in Maryland, growing along the edge of forests, you may notice a leafless tree 
with tiny spots of magenta color along its branches and trunk. These are the flowers of eastern redbud
or Cercis canadensis, which bloom before its heart-shape leaves emerge.

Eastern redbud, which has an oriental cousin, Chinese redbud, is a graceful, smallish, native tree of the
forest understory, where it can grow 15 to 20 ft as it competes with larger trees. In the garden setting,
however, with adequate moisture and nutrients, it will tend to remain shorter, perhaps 10-12 ft in 15
years. Its bark is smooth and pale grey and the branches ascend slightly, giving the canopy a rounded

Redbud is adaptable to many soil types from acid or alkaline, but will decline in permanently wet soils,
and being a tree of the forest understory, it will tolerate, and grow well in, light shade.

There are several cultivars of redbud available – 'Forest Pansy' has reddish purple leaves which glow
the color of tawny port if the tree is placed where the morning or evening sun can back light them.
Another, 'Ruby Falls', has branches with a weeping habit giving it a sculptural look, and when grown as
a single specimen it would make a wonderful highlight to the front entrance of a home. One of the
newest cultivars is The Rising Sun™ with newly opened leaves in a range of colors from apricot to
golden yellow, becoming bright lime green through the summer months, and then turning the color of
Galliano liqueur in the fall. The best color for this cultivar is obtained if the tree is situated in full sun.

Redbud is a fine choice as a tree for the shrub border, where it could be paired with smaller viburnums
such Viburnum obovatum 'Mrs. Schiller's Delight', Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginia, 'Little Henry' or
“Henry's Garnet', or Clethra alnifolia, 'Ruby Spice' or 'Hummingbird'.

Thanks to our own Teresa Dutton for the article