Spring Begins With Forest Flowers
For me, spring always begins when I dust off old literary gardens and use them as a source of inspiration while planning my real life garden. My annual lovely garden always begins in my mind in the spring time. I often think of an old Alfred Lord Tennyson poem:
“Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
Hold you here, root and all in my hand,
Little flower, but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all
I should know what God and man is.”
Another naturalist, John Burroughs, had a different slant on when spring begins and ends. He said,
“ Spring begins, when the partridge drums, when the hyla peeps, when the shad starts up the rivers, and the grass greens in the spring runs; and it ends when the leaves are unfolding and the last snowflake dissolved in midair.”
Regardless of when the exact moment is, I’m just glad it’s here, and more or less thinking that in the spring, the motto of all flower-lovers should be Robert Browning‘s quote, “Look thou not down, but up.” — since the trees are often the first to present their flowers.
Long before the snow has disappeared, the pussies on the Willow trees have burst their purplish brown winter jackets and presented their velvety gray catkins, which form a charming contrast to the reddish twigs. Some gray catkins become yellow, and bear the pollen which is carried in the silvery green pistillate catkins by the wind and insects. The pistillate catkins remain after the leaves of the tree have unfolded, and ripened their seeds, which are carried away by the wind.
Look at the Poplar trees, which also belong to the willow family, and like the willows send out gray, downy tassels before the leaves open. Then, there are the birches which also bear catkins, which appear in the early spring. Birch catkins are very attractive. They are long, graceful, and of a silky softness, and with a opulent golden color.
Among them are the Tulip trees, that are actually Yellow Poplar trees, with big yellow green petals, forming a tulip-like cup. At the center of each cup is the color orange. They measure about two inches across. The flowers begin to bloom very late in the spring, after the leaves have opened. Native to the eastern part of the United States, but so popular that it is grown virtually everywhere in the country.
In parts of the country and world where Maple trees grow, they bloom early. Even in April, the Red Maple is covered with tiny red blossoms. These, with the red twigs, give the tree a striking appearance, in contrast with the white snow which may not have disappeared.
The Silver Maple has yellow flowers, and the Rock Maple (or Sugar Maple), the national tree of Canada, sends out greenish yellow flowers on slender hairy stalks, in graceful, drooping clusters appearing a short time after the leaves have unfolded.
The Basswood (American Linden), blossoms in May. Its fragrant honey-bearing flowers appear in clusters hanging from the center of a narrow leaf-like bract. This bract later serves as a float to the round one-seeded fruit.
The Elm is a popular tree in the East. It grows to a great height, with drooping branches, and in general shape is like an inverted cone. For lining streets, and to lend grace to any landscape, it is one of the most charming of our trees.
Before the leaves have opened, the flowers on slender, drooping stalks, fringe the sides of every branch. The fruit is one-seeded and is surrounded by a thin wing, which serves as a float. The fruits drop off early, and in June can be gathered in great quantities.
However, none of these compare to the many flowering trees that also signal spring has arrived. Trees, like the Flowering Dogwood, a small flowering native tree to the eastern states, that is also cultivated outside it’s native range, for its lovely white or pink blossoms. Some of the most gorgeous cultivated species, such as the Pacific dogwood (white flowers), or the Japanese Kousa dogwood, make great additions to any garden. The white petals are actually called bracts by botanists. They aren’t really true petals, just a kind of special that has color.
Then, there are the Redbud trees. For what they lack in size, their early flowering purple pink flowers are often the first signal to Easterners and Southerners in this country that spring indeed has finally arrived. In the wild, they are understory trees, living quite comfortably beneath taller tree species.
Finally, nature’s largest and most fragrant and showy of all pronouncements of spring, has to be the many varieties of great flowering Magnolia trees. Large blossoms, with sometimes up to twelve petals and nine inches across are the hallmarks of the Magnolia trees. Fossils tell us that Magnolia’s have been around more than ninety-five millions years, that in itself makes them quite astounding.
There are over two hundred different kinds of Magnolias, and in nature they are spread across the world, particularly in the Americas, Asia, and the West Indies. They are one of the most disease free trees that anyone could want in their lovely garden. Early spring is a great time to find one of the many spectacular flowering Magnolia trees in your local garden centers and plant them.
Some Magnolia Tree Varieties to Try Are:
Merrill Magnolia Tree
O’Neill Magnolia Tree
Saucer Magnolia Tree (aka Black Tulip Magnolia Tree)
Spring Snow Magnolia Tree
Star Magnolia Tree
Sugar Magnolia Tree
Susan Magnolia Tree
Woodsman Magnolia Tree
Yellowbird Magnolia Tree
Ten Special Gardening Tips for Planting Magnolia Trees:
- Even the smaller Magnolia trees need lots of room to grow, due to the fact that their roots develop more industriously than other flowering trees. The canopy of your mature tree will also be much smaller than its roots growing under grown.
- Flowering magnolia trees are perfect trees for planting in areas where you want more privacy or for use as a wind break.
- Magnolia trees are evergreen trees and of a type that will lose leaves throughout the year.
- Magnolia trees require rich, low-pH (acid) soil.
- Choose your site for your Magnolia tree very carefully as they are one tree species that almost never survives being moved.
- New magnolia trees should not be over watered or under watered.
- Magnolia trees purchased from nurseries or garden centers (not grown from seed) trend to have circling roots. This will eventually kill the tree if not tended to, therefore, it is always wise to trim off any roots that are bent on traveling around the root ball.
- As with most ornamental trees, be sure that your hole is dug twice as large in diameter as the root ball.
- Once the magnolia tree is in the hole, be sure to give the tree a head start on growing strong by filling it with rich soil.
- Do not be alarmed if you see beetles on your Magnolia tree. Unlike other blooms, Magnolia trees are pollinated by beetles, not bees.