Gardening: This flowering tree a well-kept secret
How about a tree that’s small in size, so it doesn’t devour the landscape? One that provides outstanding color in late summer and fall in the form of clusters of fragrant white flowers, followed by deep red bracts, and is a magnet for hummers and pollinators? In winter, it shows off attractive peeling bark. Hardy to zone 5, it’s also heat tolerant and not particular about soil as long as it drains well.
This is the tree I’ve chosen to plant in the OPC Stone House display garden – it's a new variety of the Seven Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides) introduced by Proven Winners Color Choice called ‘Temple of Bloom.’ It’s a Chinese import that was introduced to the U.S. in the early 1900s. Talk about a well-kept secret.
Sun-wise it’s a full-sun, part-sun lover, meaning it needs a minimum of six hours of full sun daily or light shade, which equates to four hours of direct sun or daylong filtered rays.
Maybe the best news for me is it’s listed as deer resistant by both the Morton Arboretum in Illinois and the Missouri Arboretum.
Heptacodium miconioidesis is most often found in a shrub-like multi-stem form, however it can be trained into a single trunk. Yet it also can be planted and pruned for use as hedge-like planting if it gets enough sun. When needed, timing is key when pruning – it must be done in late winter or very early spring.
If you’re looking for another tree for use in a smaller space with full sun or in light shade with filtered sun, the native fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus ) is another good choice. This beautiful spring blooming native slowly grows to just 20 feet in height. The fleecy fragrant white flowers suspended beneath the branches are stunning says Steve Bender of Southern Living. He recommends them as a perfect replacement for the stinky Bradford pears. The good news is they are hardy from zones 3 to 9, so they, too, can take the heat and cold.
When shopping for these trees, don’t expect to drop in and pick them up at a big box store. John Steinkopf of Steinkopf Nursery in Farmington ( steinkopfnursery.com) says when these trees are in bloom, they’re big sellers and often sell out. However, they can be special ordered.
Tree maven Michael Dirr is a huge fan of this tree as a specimen in the landscape and suggests it’s best planted in spring. So now is the time to order one up.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. E-mail her at Yardener.com, Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.