I have posted about Oxydendrum arboreum before. I can't help myself, I love this tree, and I want to tell you about it. You can grow it.
I am joining C.L. Fornari's series "You Can Grow That". You will find many more bloggers' experiences growing plants on her site Whole Life Gardening.
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you have read about this tree. But come sit with me in the gravel garden, in one of the Mayan folding chairs. We'll be here a while -- those chairs are impossible to get out of. I'll need to help you when you want to get up, there's just no dignified way.
So settle in and we can talk about the little tree there in front of us. You can grow one too.
Oxydendrum arboreum is called sourwood or sorrel tree. It likes acid or "sour" soil. Most of New England has acid soil, but my yard is not overly so. It is just below neutral, and that seems to be enough.
Sourwood is a southeast native, but you can grow it in the north in zone 5. It is not completely hardy for the first two years, but if you can protect it at first while it slowly gets roots established, it will be fully hardy in zone 5 after that, tolerating temperatures below zero.
The leaves are glossy and narrow, and the flowers in June and July look like lily of the valley flowers, and bees adore them.
The flowers dry and remain on the tree all season, into fall. That creates a bejeweled look when the leaves turn scarlet in October.
The shot above is of a tree a few streets over in a prior autumn. Even my young mop headed sourwood shows this effect. It is coloring now, and I'll post a picture in a few days, in mid October, when it is fiery red with white dangling sprays.
Sourwood is a very slow grower, but eventually it can get to 30 feet tall. But it remains a trim, smaller shape, the perfect size for patios and yards. I had it sited near a patio wall for the first five years, and it grew but did not thrive. Perhaps the soil near the stone dust of the wall was not acidic enough. This tree really is particular about soil. I moved it this spring, and it has perked up and grown much better near the pea gravel garden.
I really like the form and color and personality of this tree. And sometimes I think the Big Gardener Up There does too, especially when I see it lit up in a ray of dewy sunshine on a late summer morning like this.