Glorious redbuds

Today’s favorite tree is the redbud (Cercis canadensis, below), and with the Virginia roadsides erupting into splendid color, how could I resist? In fact, my infatuation with redbuds extends far beyond their weeks long period of bloom.

The mid-spring magnolias (‘Elizabeth’, ‘Yellowbird’, and ‘Daybreak’) are coming into flower in early April, fortunately with decreasing chances for freezes that will damage blooms, but it is the redbuds that take center stage this week. While the late winter brought many early flowers, as expected the schedule has settled into a more typical, predictable pattern, with redbuds flowering in early April and the native dogwoods (Cornus florida, below) a step behind and a bit early.

With little space in this thirty-four year old garden for any new plantings besides perennials shoehorned into tiny gaps, I’ve somehow managed to add five redbuds and several dogwoods in the past year. I should say that to add something, something must go, but in this garden it rarely works that way. Somehow, it works, and yes, it’s crowded, more crowded every day, and don’t I love it?

I happily report that the variegated mutation of ‘Rising Sun’ (above) is in full flower today. I watch this tree anxiously since it was dug from a field of yellow leafed redbuds that fell victim to a vascular disease that killed hundreds of neighboring trees. This will be its third spring in the garden, so I expect the time is past to worry about it, but I do, at least a little.

Ruby Falls redbud
Flame Thrower redbud

And it is this redbud that got me started on planting more. I like the thought that the variegated redbud is a one-of-a-kind, but the colorful yellow and burgundy leaves of other redbuds are a welcome addition to the garden. I should make it clear that my redbud collecting is over and done with. There’s no more room to plant. But, both you and I know that’s a fib.

Golden Falls rebud
New leaves of a seedling of Forest Pansy redbud start red, then fade to green.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. BillP says:

    Gotta just love the Redbuds, especially the long corridor of them framing Rt50 and WV29 here near Delray. Curious can a stray be dug up and transplanted successfully?

    1. Dave says:

      A small tree can be dug if it is quickly planted to prevent drying out of the roots. It is most important to transplant before the redbud goes into leaf when it can still be moved, but with a greater risk.

  2. tonytomeo says:

    Eastern redbud is one of the species that I brought back from Oklahoma. Some insist that Oklahoma redbud, which is the State Tree of Oklahoma, is a distinct species of Cercis. Some insist that it is a variety. Otherwise, it is all a simple species. I only know that it is distinct from the Western redbud that is native here.

    1. Dave says:

      I’ll leave the genetic research to others. The shiny leaf on Oklahoma or Texas redbuds is not necessary on the East Coast. Most breeding is done with the Eastern redbud, with the purple leafed ‘Merlot’ the most notable exception.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        Do Oklahoma and Texas redbud also have smaller leaves? Western redbud is quite variable, but does not live on such a vast range.

      2. Dave says:

        Leaves of Eastern redbuds are variable in size depending largely upon moisture and sunlight exposure, but generally, I think they are larger than the Oklahoma/Texas. I rarely see these in east coast gardens, so I don’t know how they respond to our increased rainfall. The few I see in tree growing nurseries where leaf sizes are exaggerated due to irrigation and fertilization have slightly smaller leaves.

      3. tonytomeo says:

        Only cultivars are available here, although one of ours grew from understock of a grafted specimen. They have relatively large leaves, perhaps because they are partially shaded by nearby redwoods. I am not so keen on the overly trendy ‘Forest Pansy’, but it is what a few of ours are. The redbud that I grew from seed that I found growing wild in Oklahoma has smaller leaves. They do not seem to be much shinier though. The leaves are larger than those of Western redbud, but smaller than cultivars of Eastern redbud.

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