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By Roger Boddaert
Special to the Village News 

Redbud trees are harbinger of spring

 

Last updated 5/12/2018 at 9:16am

This white cercis grows in Fallbrook; its flowers bloom before its leaves come out.

Spring is happening and so are the flowering redbuds (cercis canadensis). When you look real close, the petite flowers resemble a tiny pea, hence they are called "Pea Flowers" This species is native to eastern and central North America and is in the legume family.

It's one of my favorite early flowering trees that announce the beginning of a new season, but there other species from California, Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico and even China with many cultivars.

Redbuds are considered a smaller tree and can fit in to so many of the small and urban gardens that are becoming more prevalent these days. I like its scale and proportions which work well in so many places in the landscape. It is a deciduous tree that loses it foliage in autumn, splashed with yellow and golden leaves. The heart-shaped leaves are unique as foliage goes and I call it the "love tree".

The white flowering type is kind of rare and a brilliant white (picture included). A pendulous type called "Lavender Twist" is smaller in scale with its unique cascading branches and should be placed in a key focal area.

Another cultivar is "Forest Pansy" which has deep maroon foliage and is quite striking when the new foliage emerges and pink blossoms. More selections and breeding work is being done and new forms and shapes are being introduced into the horticultural world, for redbuds are such a great and adaptable tree to many locations in the country....hooray for redbuds!

Redbuds can grow in full sun to dappled light and as an understory small tree. After the flowers are spent, the delicate leaves emerge on the branches of the tree.

With the current drought cycle we are enduring, redbuds are well adapted to the art of xeriscaping. Two species to consider for lower water requirements are cercis occidentalis and cercis mexicana. One must remember that when plants are classified as drought tolerant, it's only after two to three years in the establishment period and getting them settled into their new soil environment.

I see too many folks who buy plants that are called drought-tolerant, dig a hole, place the plant in the hole, give it a little water and consider it to be on its own and that is not the case.

When I install any type of plant, I dig a hole twice the size of the container which it was grown in, fill the hole with water to see how it percolates (drains) amend the soil if needed, and then install the plant.

I also make sure some form of watering takes place; be it a drip system, some bubblers, or hand watering. I like to hand water in the beginning, even if I have installed some form of automatic irrigation system, just to make sure the root ball and the surrounding earth gets moist in the initial establishment stage. I always dig an earthen basin around the plant as a reservoir for holding the water around the root-ball.

With the small amount of rain this past season, keeping your landscape healthy and green is going to be a real challenge this summer. I can't advocate enough the need and the beneficial qualities of good clean organic mulch. Give your entire landscape a good 3" to 4" of clean mulch throughout and make sure not to get mulch up against the trunks of trees and shrubs for this could lead to a fungal entry.

The benefits of clean mulch besides aiding in the retaining of your irrigation water is that it keeps the soils cool, helps in weed suppression, and aids to build up mycorrhizae fungi (a good fungus).

This redbud's leaves are heart-shaped.

Below the soil surface is a vibrant and complex world all unto its own, so feed your soils, not the plants, for healthy soils will produce strong and healthy plants. I am an organic and natural landscaper, a horticultural consultant and have had great results in my lifetime of gardening also using worm castings and homemade mulch along with compost teas.

The best time to get new plantings into the earth and get them established is from late fall to late winter or early spring depending on the weather. Springtime is great to see the varieties of redbuds out in the nurseries, so have fun in your redbud hunting.

If you are looking for that special tree in that special spot out in the landscape, consider a redbud with all its charming qualities.

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is today"

Roger Boddaert, Maker of Natural Gardens, can be reached at (760) 728-4297.

 

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