The unfortunate timing of April freezes ruined this year’s blooms of the purple leafed Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, below). In the best circumstance there are only a few scattered flowers since the shrubby tree was a latecomer to the garden, and it is sandwiched between a tall, gold cypress and the maples and tulip poplars of the forest that borders the garden. With a more sunny position the airy blooms are marvelous, but I must make do with only a few small flowers and foliage that is exceptional despite the lack of sunlight.
Smoketree is best grown where it can be pruned hard to maintain a dense, shrubby form, but here its branches are allowed to snake through and around the cypress. With no better suited locations, the background of purple leaves to the gold cypress seemed a great idea. Certainly, not every tree can be featured front and center, and this combination has proved to be only mildly disappointing.
Two ‘Silver Cloud’ redbuds (Cercis canadensis ‘Silver Cloud’, above) on the sunny slope that descends to the rear garden have been ravaged by caterpillars in recent years, with no apparent ill effect. A year ago I noted that leaves seemed smaller, but after a smaller infestation the trees have rebounded.
I’ve recently seen a redbud that is purported to be an improvement over ‘Silver Cloud’, though I see no reason that improvement is required. ‘Floating Clouds’ has similar variegation, though perhaps streaks of green and white are more pronounced. Greatly improved upon or not, I am quite content with the two ‘Silver Cloud’ redbuds, which does not mean that I would not plant ‘Floating Clouds’ in an instant if I could figure a spot for one.
Today, the Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla, above and below) is flowering, and like many trees in this densely planted garden, lower limbs have been lost as they’ve been shaded. Only a few branches remain low enough to see the huge flowers that are centered between leaves twenty three inches from tip to tip. There is little reason that the bigleaf magnolia should attract the attention of home gardeners. Its leaves, flowers, and mature size are huge, and inappropriate for most gardens. In this garden, where scale and balance are lightly regarded, the magnolia is treasured.