April 26, 2010

Oklahoma Redbud

Cercis reniformis 'Oklahoma'

This variety of redbud is similar to Cercis canadensis, Eastern Redbud.  But it's a western form, and as an adaptation to drier, hotter climates it developed waxy leaves that preserve moisture.  It has the typical heart shaped leaves that distinguish redbuds, but they really are eye catchingly shiny, making this a beautiful tree up close.

And when it's in bloom, look out!  It's a deep, deep magenta, darker than Eastern Redbuds.
It usually blooms in late April and early May here in Connecticut, but in this spring's record warmth, it has been blooming since mid April.

It's perched in a narrow strip in front of a bedroom window. It's a forest understory tree, and it keeps its habit of leaning, wriggling and gracefully arching as it would in search of light at the edge of the woods.

In summer when it is leafed out you don't see the elegant open shape as much; instead this pretty tree features a round head of exuberant green foliage.

And the foliage is extravagantly glossy, as this photo from Missouri Botanical Garden's plant files shows.  My tree is right on the edge of the walk, and no one walks by it without reaching out to rub a shiny leaf.
It grows rapidly.  My photos from fall 2006 when it was a one gallon container twig, show a spindly little thing about 4 feet high.  It's now a gorgeous small tree, filling out each year.  It is supposed to have yellow, or reddish purple fall color, but I've never noticed any.  The leaves, so striking in their summer gloss, turn sort of pale, brownish and tan on my plant, and fall off.

I love everything about this tree -- its form, its flowers and leaves, where I put it by the walk -- except for one thing.  It is sited in line with a pink flowering dogwood on the other side of the garage.  They bloom at the same time, and they clash.  The color mix is jarring.  Coming up the driveway in early spring makes your teeth hurt.

Here's the dogwood bloom on a sunny day.  It's a hot salmony pink in contrast to the rich cool blue-red magenta of the redbud.  Both of them are beautiful trees, and I don't want them fighting with each other.

This has taught me a lesson in design: when you site permanent garden elements like trees, think about how they will look from multiple views.  And remember bloom colors as well as shapes and forms.  The garden is a whole system, not just individual specimens, but we get seduced by each plant's charms.  I certainly did with this redbud -- I do love it.

I just drive up the driveway with my eyes closed in April and May.  Knowing this, Jim has hidden my electronic garage door opener.  I hope to get it back in June.

Cercis reniformis 'Oklahoma'
In MoBot's database


  1. The "clash" doesn't look that bad in the photo. I don't think I could grow either of those trees here, so I am jealous, big time, because they are so gorgeous.

    Christine in Alaska

  2. They are both beautiful trees, the colour of the your Cercis is quite amazing! I also love the dogwood - Do you know what variety it is?

  3. I was in Ft. Worth at the end of March and the redbuds were in bloom everywhere. Even the Highway Dept. is using them at interchanges. I didn't realize that that this variety would grow well in the Northeast, but yours is doing quite well. It may be that since the Texas (or Oklahoma) Redbud is more tolerant of calerous soils it is a better choice in lawns and near concrete foundations.

  4. I think all of natures colors go together well. Of course some people have a more refined way of looking at things. You crack me up talking about not having your door clicker. I hope you get it back soon and I hear a little chocolate will make your teeth quit hurting. tee hee.

  5. Christine, Oklahoma redbud- zone 6- is marginal for me, although it's doing great. But eastern redbuds (C. canadensis) will grow in zone 4, so you may be able to have one. Worth a try!

    Karen, the builder put the dogwood in so I don't know the variety, other than Cornus florida rubra. But Cherokee Chief is very popular here, it is probably that.

    Curtis, I think you are right about the soil. My Cercis is right up against the foundation, in unamended rubbly dirt that was there, and the walk with stone dust was installed right over the roots. Oklahoma is supposed to stay smaller (under 20 feet) than the canadensis, so I thought it better in front of the window. Anyway, it's happy where it is!

  6. The JC Raulston had a gorgeous Oklahoma Redbud -- in their inherent confusion I wouldn't be surprised if they cut it down. It was a gorgeous tree.

    In time you may come to like the combination of colors -- in the photos they don't look to me like they clash, really. (If you want a really terrible color combination, try the pale pink 'Ballerina' rose with orange daylilies. Blech.) I would try adding something in the blue to royal purple range to try to ameloriate the difference in colors so you don't have to go into the driveway blind. :)

    The trees look beautiful, as does the Fothergilla.

  7. Lisa, I don't know if it's the actual color shades that bother me or the fact that it's just too much pink all at once all in a small place. I love the idea of a little chocolate for therapy though.

    Sweet bay, I like your suggestion to add another color to tame the combination... although as I commented to Lisa above, I think it might just be to much pink color all at once that is the real irritant to me in this very small space. Wish I had your acreage to try out mixes of color combos!

  8. Laurrie, I have the cercis canadensis, just love it, but I really like the shiny leaves on yours, I did not know there was a western redbud. Too bad you can't plant a tree in the middle between the cercis and the cornus, so they are not so visually close, maybe a nice columnar form (speaking of chocolate, chocolate foliage would be lovely).

  9. Deborah, the shiny leaves are really this tree's asset. I wish I had more space to try some ways to soften this combination!

  10. WOW. Those are so pretty!! :D

  11. Both trees are very pretty. I especially love the blooms in the last picture.

  12. Kyna, thanks for the compliment!

    Tatyana, I too love the sweetness of the dogwood blooms. I've enjoyed finding your blog, and had a great tour of your spring break trips.

  13. Wow ... what brilliant colours. I especially love the redbud ... that is a magnificent magenta!

    I can see what you mean about the clash ... we definitely have to think long term when we're planting the permanents. Please, please, though don't drive with your eyes closed ... you might accidentally run one of them down!!

  14. Bernie, isn't that magenta just intense? Some years the dogwood blooms later, but this year the two trees came out together and they do clash.

  15. Ouch...I do have to say, they don't look bad when the Dogwood is in the foreground...but when they are reversed it IS a bit strident ;-)

    1. Scott, the sad news is that the redbud is gone now, felled in the freak October 2011 snowstorm. Might be a good thing for overall design, but I will miss the redbud.


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