Some plants need the slant of the morning sun to be appreciated, others possess an intoxicating fragrance. The Dove Tree, or Davidia involucrata, is at its best when the wind rushes through the leaves, lifting the white bracts so they twist and turn and dance. They flutter. It’s like watching music. The rhythm sweeps through the branches, breathing life and creating patterns. It seems to come alive with the wind. Like when I’m playing disc golf and I throw a disc, it comes alive in the air. The breeze can give it unintentional purpose. Disc golf, Dove trees, discovery. I started playing disc golf last year and it’s not easy for me, but I love it. Slowly, slowly I learn new skills and improve my game, but it’s always two steps forward and one step back. Just like watching the wind dance through the leaves of the Dove tree, there’s nothing better than watching a disc fly through the air and glide through the trees. The breath of life.
The double pure white blossoms of the Mount Fuji flowering cherry opened last month and I knew that was my favorite tree. It called to me on my walks and I kept getting drawn to it. My dog tried to get me over where the grass smelled like several shades of pee, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of this tree. Petals so white, so light, they seemed to be made of some other-worldly matter that drifted down from the stars. The buds, slightly pink, opened to a clear true indescribable white. Well, let me try to describe. It’s definitely not just plain old white. It’s not snow white, or paper white or milk white, but maybe moon or star white. At a glance it appears a light joyful, carefree white, but upon inspection, it’s alive with colors. So many colors of the rainbow are swirling around those blossoms that they all crash into each other and explode into white. Light, bright, shining spring white. When I stand under that tree, gazing up at thousands of soft petals, the future and the past become irrelevant. There is only the here and now. It’s as if that Mount Fuji flowering cherry has the power to pull me into the present like no other life form. I am here, surrounded by color, and all I see is white full of light. But then the dog insists on pulling me over to the next clump of sweet-smelling grass and it’s back to the future. Hey, is that a Kwanzan Flowering Cherry? Those petals are so pink, like nothing I’ve ever seen before…
I’m collecting trees. I’m collecting them but not planting them in my yard or writing them into books. I’m creating a small forest in my mind, a woodland edge of heart shaped leaves and twisty curly needles. This collection that is slowly growing is my list of all-time favorite trees. As time goes by I announce my favorites ‘I’m only happy under a Snowbell’ or ‘The Dove tree is the best because it blooms on my birthday’. And as the years go by my interests change and grow. It usually begins with an unexpected encounter such as a vision of loveliness or a soft fragrance. It’s also the timing, such as finding the Dove tree blooming on my birthday in May. Or a tree might suddenly appear just when its needed, like the Coast Redwood with its thick, huggable bark. A new friend! The Dove tree is definitely in my collection and this year I had the opportunity to watch its new spring growth, to see the unfolding of the leaves and the unfurling of the bracts. Like baby doves, the leaves and bracts slowly opened in April and were fully fledged in May. This year was earlier than usual, perhaps by two weeks. Here are the early stages of Davidia involucrata, just one of the favorites in my collection. What are your favorites?
Just the Facts
Davidia involucrata Dove Tree, Handkerchief Tree
Size 20-40 ft. (6-12m) High and Wide
Hardy to zone 6
Slow to medium growth Rate
Deciduous, Blooms white bracts in May
Prefers light shade
Variegated Stellar Pink Dogwood (Cornus kousa x Cornus florida) I’ve seen trees like this before. On the Monrovia site you can find three variegated Cornus kousa; Samaritan, Wolf Eyes and Summer Fun, but they all have white flowers. As the human race is constantly searching for the next new thing, now arrives the variegated dogwood with a Pink flower. Dogwoods always look so spindly and minimal when they are young, but a mature dogwood can take your breath away. It has to be in the top three for spring flowering trees. Flowering cherries, Magnolias and Dogwoods. Three reasons why spring is the best. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one grows. It has green leaves with white margins and mottled hues of green and white in several shades turn multi-colored in the fall — pink, yellow, purple and green simultaneously. Flowers are profuse, large and pink, covering the small tree in spring for several weeks. It is said to be highly pest and disease resistant. Grow in full sun in northern climates and part shade in warmer areas. Grows 10–15 tall and wide.
Marley’s Pink Snowbell (Styrax japonicus ‘JL Weeping’) The world will never have enough snowbell trees, so I welcome any new varieties. You may know that I have a thing for this tree. I love a mature spreading canopy of a traditional Snowbell, but I”m intrigued with this new little one. Marley’s Pink Snowbell has a weeping habit, pink flowers and leaves that are significantly larger, glossier and less pubescent than other known cultivars. June flowers are vibrant pink and bell-shaped. It grows up to 8 feet tall and 4–5 feet wide at maturity. Out of these three new trees, this is the one I want!
Winchester Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) Another lovely little thing that I’m curious to see in its mature state. There are an amazing variety of Pines and I think they provide an essential element to the garden. Green in winter, structural and a contrasting texture to broad leaf plants. This petite mugo seems to be bursting with life. ‘Winchester’ is a dwarf mugo pine chosen for its tidy, semi-upright form, which differs from other dwarf mugo cultivars. It maintains its dense body, making it suitable for small spaces. Tiny, short needles add year-round color and texture to the garden or container. Grows 3–4 inches annually, reaching a mature height of 2–3 feet in 10 years. Tolerates poor soils and dry conditions, as well as full or part sun.
Last week the blossoms were just opening on the Snowbell tree, or Styrax japonica. The bees were humming through the air, the sun was sparkling….it was a glorious day! I was so excited to immerse myself in in the world of the snowbell tree, so I tried to capture the moment with this video. My novice video-taking skills leave much to be desired, but I think the tree still stands out during this perfect time. It was the perfect time too, for the next day I walked by and many of the flowers had already faded and fallen to the earth. One day they were fresh and creamy white and the next they were tired and finished. I’ll never forget my first encounter with a snowbell tree when I moved to Washington State. I had never had the opportunity to meet one before, because the timing has to be just right. On this day I was walking through my neighborhood taking my daughter to school. We had just walked below the canopy of a leafy green deciduous tree and I happened to look up. I was surrounded by bells! By snowbells! Thousands of beautiful bright blossoms were dancing all around me! It was a joyful experience and from then on I would say that one place I could always find happiness was under a snowbell tree in June. And yet the moment is so fleeting and that’s the way it is with many plants, and sometimes people too. The timing has to be just right to see them at their very best. So pay attention!
Today as I was admiring the fresh new growth on my Japanese Maple and saw something disturbing. The buds were just breaking open with our warming April weather, unfurling delicious colors that were vibrant with life. It must have been a signal to the Japanese Maple-eating pests, the dinner bell was ringing! There were little black dots all over these new leaves. Black spots on the tips of the branches. Upon closer inspection I noticed that they were soft and easily scraped off. Unfortunately the leaves were so tender that it was hard not to damage them as well as I tried to remove the little black bugs. As I looked closer at the photo and did a little research, it seems that they may by some type of black aphid. Could it really be aphid season already? I’m not prepared for this! I have been winter lazy, thinking everything was hibernating still. But spring is here! Even though I’m still wearing sweaters and dashing through rain showers, the pests are right on schedule. Tomorrow I’ll try and pull off more of these little black bugs and watch them for a while. The tree is small enough that I can easily take care of them without sprays. What do you think? Have the aphids arrived?