Not to rub it in, but we are planting tomatoes and peppers tonight for a family activity and we are supposed to have 80 degree weather all week — which is nice for Rachel on her spring break.
Hope all is well in Utah.
— your Tallahassee family.
Dear kids, Enjoy your tomatoes and peppers. Guess we will have to wait a while for ours. The weather here in Tooele Valley is doing its usual spring debate — should it snow or warm up? As a result, we have awakened to snow in the morning and found ourselves in shirtsleeve weather by afternoon more than once lately. The shirtsleeve weather will win out, but meanwhile the debate goes on. The crocuses have about finished doing their thing and we do have daffodils and tulips coming up now. They aren’t in full glory at our house, but they are a happy reminder that it is spring. I’m excited for the rest of the spring flowers and especially the flowering trees to bloom. Hopefully, the fruit will hold off a while longer. As you well know, winter won’t completely let go for a while yet.
Our kids, who have left the Utah winters for the balmy winter in Northern Florida, just can’t resist gloating in the winter — like in this email we exchanged earlier this week. We try to tell them we like four distinct seasons better, but they have lived here, know all about it, and are not impressed. By the end of winter, neither am I. One nice thing about cold, gray winters is that they make spring look just that much better! I find some consolation in that.
Anyone who has lived in this area for very long realizes that spring typically moves in cautiously. Fortunately, there are plants for every season and spring is fully arrayed with flowers beginning when the crocuses peep through in late winter on through daffodils and tulips and biennials and finally the perennials.
Sometime soon, flowers will start showing up on the baby crabapples we planted last fall. The flowers that pop through the ground are exciting, but when trees and shrubs carry the color upward, the show becomes spectacular.
No other plants transform so quickly and with as much show as flowering trees. Before indulging in these beautiful plants, remember that they are permanent. The show goes on spring after spring and the tree must look good through the rest of the year in the spot you have chosen for it. Check size and shape, potential pest problems, tree strength and cleanliness (yes, wind and winter snows will be back again) along with the beautiful flowers it will produce for spring. In short, put the right tree in the right place.
Fruit trees do flower of course, but some places in the landscape that would really show off a flowering tree do not lend themselves to a crop of fruit — and not everybody wants a crop of fruit to deal with. Select varieties carefully to get trees with beautiful flowers without the need to clean up fruits later in the season.
Flowering stone fruits include cherries, plums, nectarines, peaches, apricots and almonds. Each supplies its own color of flowers ranging from white through various shades of pink to deep magenta. Some cannot make up their minds and go for variegated blooms.
Flowering cherries come in dozens of different varieties providing flowers in single or double forms of white, pink or magenta. The trees themselves grow in an assortment of sizes and shapes. Choose from narrow, upright, columnar, broad, spreading and weeping shapes ranging in size from small to very large. Those in colder locations of Tooele County may look to ‘Schuberts’ or ‘Canada Red Choke Cherry’ which are very hardy. They also color up the summer landscape with their purplish foliage. Find out what you are purchasing and plant it in an appropriately sized spot so it can grow and flourish for years.
Flowering pears array themselves with a spectacular blizzard of spring blossoms. The tree leafs out in dark-green glossy leaves in the summer, and in the fall, they turn brilliant colors of yellow, orange or red.
The name ‘Bradford pear’ is synonymous with flowering pears, because of its gorgeous masses of spring flowers, but a number of newer and better varieties has outclassed it. Bradford produces a mass of branches at about the same level on the tree and the limb structure is weak. It is extremely susceptible to storm breakage. Better varieties with upright growth forms include ‘Aristocrat,’ ‘Autumn Blaze,’ ‘Redspire,’ ‘Trinity,’ and ‘Chanticleer.’ All of these offer spectacular blooms and are usually winter hardy and resistant to fire blight. The fruit is very small and round and not messy.
Crabapples are also small, versatile trees that grow very well here. They are cold hardy and come in an assortment of shapes from narrow upright to weeping forms. They may be single or double, and large or small. Color is their middle name. Their flowers may be white, pink red, lavender or variegated shades. Foliage may be bright to glossy green or shades of bronze, red or purple. Some have very bright, beautiful fall color and some keep their bright red or orange fruit through the drab days of winter.
They sound perfect, but, of course, there are no perfect trees. One word of warning: find out about their fruiting habits — fruit may fall and become messy. The crabapple fruits may be small enough that it doesn’t matter if they fall, or they may cling to the tree. Crabapples may also be susceptible to powdery mildew, the most prevalent disease in our area, and can also suffer from fireblight, cedar apple rust and scab.
Flowering plums are pretty and they have become very popular in the area. Unfortunately, they are overused and they are weak trees. They produce very thick, upright growth with narrow branch angles that break down easily under snow or in heavy winds.
You cannot count on some cultivars to live through our colder winters. Perhaps it would be wise to choose something else.
Hawthorns are smaller trees that provide excellent spring flowers. Many of the older varieties are susceptible to insects and diseases, but improved varieties have reduced that problem. Prune them regularly to keep them looking good. A common defect is crowded upright growth that needs regular removal to keep them attractive. There are a number of different varieties, but one that does well here is ‘Lavalle.’
‘Lavalle’ hawthorns are attractive trees that lend themselves to small areas. They produce a beautiful, fragrant flower in the spring which turns to fruit that persists on the tree through the season, turns red in the fall and stays in place providing food for birds in the winter. It has more open branching than other varieties and is less twiggy. Leaves are dark green and leathery, turn bronze red after the first sharp frost and hang on well into winter. It adapts well to our winters and will also tolerate dry, hot summer conditions.
Horse chestnuts provide mounds of attractive red or pink spring flowers set against green foliage. If you are looking for a large display tree, consider these. Neill Red, Britoil and Baumann are outstanding selections.
Redbuds are not particularly common in our area, but they could be planted more. They produce flashy bright dropletshaped blossoms. Redbud flowers, despite their name, usually produce brilliant purplish flowers in the spring, but there are some white flowered redbuds. These trees are not very big and grow well in our area. For best growth, plant them in areas protected from direct afternoon sun that may scorch the leaves. Species include ‘Eastern,’ ‘Western’ and ‘Oklahoma.’ ‘Forest Pansy’ is a variety with purple leaves.
As we look at this list of spring flowering trees, we have to thank breeders and nurseries for years of research and breeding to create better flowering tree varieties.
Because of their work, each year we can enjoy more trees that are beautiful. Do not overlook old favorites in your plantings, but do check out the new varieties as well. Pay attention to year-round details and find just the right tree for your spring landscape.
Go ahead and savor the spring flowers and flowering trees during our cool spring weather.
We will plant our tomatoes and peppers later — while those in Florida swelter!
Tips for the week:
• Prune spring flowering trees after they flower. If you prune them while they are dormant, you are cutting off potential flowers and reducing the spring show.
• It is time to start spring pruning fruit trees and others. For detailed information, come to the demonstration sponsored by the USU Cooperative Extension Service and the Master Gardeners. It is open to the public. Larry Sagers, Regional Horticulturist for the Extension and the co-host of the KSL Greenhouse Show on Saturday mornings, will demonstrate pruning techniques for various trees and shrubs this Friday March 25, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. At 10 a.m., join the group at Ray and Loya Beck’s home, 156 S. First West in Tooele. The demonstration will be in his back yard, which is directly across the alley from the parking lot of the 4th-14th Ward LDS chapel on the corner of Second South and Second West. At 2 p.m., the demonstration will be repeated at the home of Gary and Janet Fawson, at 187 Waterhole Way in Grantsville.
For more information, contact the USU Extension office at 843- 2350.