Let’s talk small flowering trees — small as in 15 or 20 feet high. If I get any planting done this year in Heart’s Content, the priority is a line of flowering trees along the graveyard side of the property.
I could probably use six or eight, staggered, and I think the size of the common lilac and the Pee Gee hydrangea will give what I want — a canopy that won’t completely hide the old graveyard but will provide some privacy and a visual frame along that side.
But there are so many other lilacs out there, not to mention small, flowering fruit trees. A serviceberry (our chuckley pear) would be lovely, as would an eastern redbud. I’m going to stick with Zone 4 just to be on the safe side in a fairly exposed seaside location, and you know me, as much as I love birches and many other beautiful non-flowering trees, I have to go for flowers wherever I can.
I’ve always loved the old-fashioned Pee Gee (paniculata grandiflora) hydrangea. There are so many newer cultivars now, but the paniculata is considered about the hardiest. Large, white flower heads appear in late summer and gradually change to pale pink, deeper pink and then a light brownish. They dry beautifully and I don’t have room for one in my city garden, so that one is a definite, as is a common lilac because it just belongs in an old garden, which is what I want mine to feel like, even if it will be a new garden.
Lilacs are not native to North America and I like the thought of early settlers bringing them here. The common one can get leggy, but in this case I don’t mind.
Lilacs bloom for a couple of weeks but by planting different varieties, early, mid, and late bloomers, you could possibly have lilacs in bloom for up to six weeks, which sounds pretty good to me.
Of course, the newer ones don’t have the scent of grandma’s lilacs and are more susceptible to disease and blight. Preston lilacs are late bloomers and reputed to be more resistant to those problems. Two of these are Miss Canada, a bright pink, and Donald Wyman (deeper pink to almost red). Most lilacs are hardy to Zone 3, but the Prestons are good to Zone 2.
I love the purples and blues but some other interesting ones are Lurie Baltet, coppery buds opening to coral pink, Charles Joly, sort of a wine red, and Sensation, which is white with a purple edge.
And from there on, the possibilities are many. There’s already a young mountain ash and a very mature laburnum elsewhere on the property, so I won’t duplicate those, plus I don’t want any yellow flowers in the graveyard tree line. Attracting birds is important to me, so cherries seem like a natural choice, especially since my preserving impulses seem to begin and end with cherries in brandy.
I’ve never grown cherries, but I know that for northern gardeners, a sour cherry is the best bet. The Montmorency comes highly recommended. It has white flowers and clusters of large, bright red sour cherries, often called the best pie-making cherry. (I haven’t come across any reference to best brandy-soaking cherry yet). It’s also self-fertile, which is a good thing in any fruit tree, because you only need one to produce a crop. The height is around 20 feet, so that would work.
I’d also like something weeping as a specimen tree, in which case I might succumb to a birch.
I’d be really happy if anyone would send me pictures of trees that are doing well in their coastal gardens, especially if you happen to know their names. Growing zones are one thing but there’s nothing like tried and true experience.
Corrections from last week re “Come Pick a Daffodil, Make a Donation,” Grand Bank, May 10-11; the host of Abbie’s Garden B&B is Bruce Dennis and the prize draws will be held at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 11. (Can’t blame the editor for this one.)
Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.