Blooming Trees – Some Notes on Where and Why To Plant Them

I have added much to the original post. These forward paragraphs are a part. I’m afraid I have created a sort of monster – another long involved post which may require two visits to finish. When I do that, I always hope I can entertain a reader enough with pictures and concrete examples of the topic to at least have them enjoy the journey.

So, with Winter having a really hard time leaving and giving up some playing time to a sunny and warmer Spring in Kentucky, I find myself pining – I mean really desiring – some serious Springtime. Well, few things announce the season changes more radically than the well-placed and efficiently-designed trees in our neighborhoods and parks. So this, then, is simply one person’s more obvious and desirable appreciation of the changing seasons………as in “Get here, dammit!” 😉

We plant trees for as many reasons as there are – well – trees. Some of them we plant to provide shade and to change the weather around our homes – which they do like few other things. We will often consider their foliage at the time of selection, looking for something especially appealing perhaps, say with Fall Color.

(left click any picture to enlarge)

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These proud eventual behemoths dominate and define our gardens and lawns, adding a sense of permanence, shade and beauty. Their shapes tend to offer a completely wide range of opportunities, from climbing them for kids – always a never-ending source of pleasure as I recall – to the entire “shade” provision – often including such things as fruits, pretty and interesting bark textures and smells.

Blooming trees tend to occupy a mid range of heights. It’s rare to find trees which put out seriously gorgeous blooms getting over 30 feet high. Some Tulipfera’s can get up there. Out West, some Locusts dangle fabulous clumps of Wysteria-like blossoms for a couple of weeks and they can get very high.  Their one weakness, in my history of dealing with them is that they are a very soft wood. Wind just decimates them, in the end, or huge snowfalls. Having said that, some have survived well indeed and they produce these gorgeous blooms every Spring. This is the Purple Robe variety.


The Deeper South and California can grow some huge blooming trees, such as Jacaranda and Crepe Myrtles. I have not been fortunate enough to play with these species personally, so my opinion of them remains that of the kid with his nose foggily pressed against the window at the Toy Display at Christmas. 😉

Generally, if I am looking for something to provide blooms, I tend towards those trees which produce impressively. Now, of all these mid-height specimens, there is another range of considerations dealing with timing. The Laburnum (Golden Chain) bloomer in the picture below tend to show up in late Spring. This gives a chance for the earlier blooming Cherries, Plums, Crabapples and the likes to do their thing either before or concurrently with these guys. You’ll even notice a rare Rhodendron sighting in this picture, tucked in close to the house on a “North” side – the only possible positioning for Rhodies in Reno, Nevada.

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Below is a picture of the Lunatic Fringe of Golden Chain design – an arrangement which is entirely possible to install in climates in which they accommodate well. Good well-draining soil and a plenitude of rainfall or excellent irrigation are an absolute requirement for this softwood specimen. But you have to admit – the Lunatic Fringe is pretty cool! (Nor is this a picture of one of my projects, unlike most of the others. I just found it hard not to celebrate.)  Luscious examples of the best of the best are the inspiration and idea-producers where designers go to constant school. This is not even complicated, ironically.


We place them in locations where they can dominate during their heyday, while waiting for the more Summer loving perennials and grasses develop. Prominently-displayed, blooming trees make quite a statement. Nor do they have to be huge to be quietly effective.

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Later, when developed more fully is when we see the pure splendor of the best blooming trees. They can literally take your breath away standing near one or walking by. The simple profuseness of some of the Cherry Trees and Crabs is simply mind-boggling.

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We watch the stages as the blooms form, then burst out. It is some great Natural Theatre.

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Th real winners are those with some age to them. I love what so many City and Private Parks display on a routine basis. How on Earth can one improve on settings such as these?:

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From the Portland, Oregon Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden:

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I suspect that railing will never be the same “after Paul”, lol.  Pretty nice, though, you have to admit. The designers of Parks have all those great aspects such as time and maintenance to make their stuff work.

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But how pretty the blooms are from even the most average of Blooming Cherries?

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The Kentucky State Tree – Liriodendron Tulipfera


Honestly, a tree I have fallen head-over-heels in love with in Louisville turns out to be the “State Tree” – the Liriodendron or “Tulip Tree”. It turns out there are many Magnolias termed “Tulip Trees” as well as the Liriodendron, but none grow as large, stately and lush-leaved as this. Then of course, there is the bloom. Subtle, amazingly clean, absolutely gorgeous these blooms actually feature the rarest color in “Bloomdom” – Green. When I first ran into the blooms, I had a crazy epiphany – nothing overwhelming at all, these gorgeous little blooms simply require an up close look to be fully appreciated.00000

The above is a fresh, spic and span new bloom which will evolve into something less camouflaged and more bee-ready, but the striking orange under that leaf-colored green seems like some tastefully understated fluff – a trick of the Creator. Later, the bloom achieves substantially more color as the sun and rough natural traffic of age, wind and insects change things as they always do.



There can be a lot of them, too.  😉 This is truly one amazingly healthy specimen here…..


Shapely, even stately when allowed to thrive without conflicting tall trees, this softwood Poplar variation is as charming and – ironically, owing to its subtle colors – as demurely elegant as it gets.


Tree placement is the general province of landscapers and designers who worry all over the placement and eventual size of trees. Any more, all the new building notwithstanding, we still face mortality in all trees – they have an expected life span. There are 200 year old Elms and Oaks in Louisville who have a nasty propensity to age and have their branches finally break and fall in incredibly dangerous and heavy manner onto sidewalks and parking spaces. They need replacing, to say the least, as stately and magnificent as they may even still be. They certainly require serious pruning, often taking entire branches, clearing areas which can change the entire character of a tree.

It is also the same with Ornamentals. While it is not unusual to see 100 year old cherry trees, it is the exception rather than the norm. Here is a fascinating bit of history:

Since the start of the Heian period (794-1185), the most-anticipated spring event in Japan has been cherry blossom viewing or hanami. Kyoto is home to many famous cherry blossom viewing locations. The city also has its share of especially well-known individual trees. The most celebrated of them all is the magnificent weeping cherry tree or shidare sakura in Maruyama Park which has long enchanted visitors. The care of this immense tree, which is slowly shrinking, is the responsibility of Toemon Sano who is known as the Sakuramori or ”Cherry-Tree Doctor”. If you are in Kyoto this month be sure to make a special visit to see this remarkable tree in its full glory.



That’s a “Quality Life” for a tree!!


8 thoughts on “Blooming Trees – Some Notes on Where and Why To Plant Them

  1. Thanks, Allan. Like you, I enjoy the field quite a bit. I used to walk by most of those trees every single day so it was easy to capture the time sequences and to catch them at their peaks.

  2. What a beautiful bevy of bloomers; I especially liked the “time lapse” series, and the photos of the park. I agree about the flowering cherries and plums. We have some here which are either native or escapee; they produce rich masses of single flowers in pinkish or white, then the little cherry-sized plums in red or yellow. Live without summer water, too.

    Dogwoods are another favorite of mine.

    Very thought-provoking comments on why and where we plant flowering trees. As ever, Steve!
    .-= Pomona Belvedere´s last blog ..Harbingers of Spring =-.

  3. I love that plant as well, Brian. I think Crabs are by far my most favorite bloomers, in the end. In fact, they also come in a stunning variety, too.

    Your site is just terrific. I spent time there and loved it.

  4. Is the “lunatic fringe” a laburnum?
    Another beautiful spring bloomer is the flowering almond… at least in my area. (southern Ontario) … unfortunately it did not survive; not due to climate, but rather to disease. but a rare beauty!

  5. Abi, no, I called the arrangement – the plan – the lunatic fringe. And it;s really not, but it looks so absurdly great there just has to be lunacy involved.

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