May 9, 2013

Here We Go Again

I am on my fifth attempt to grow a redbud tree, a Cercis. I have lost four so far, but, ever hopeful, here we go again.

This my latest attempt --- Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' and I am so excited to see the first tentative pink blooms opening. I planted it last summer, so this is the first time I am seeing it flower.

It is the purple-leaved variety, and the leaves are a striking, very deep wine color in spring and early summer. Here it was last summer.

After the early summer flush, the leaves fade a little, but the effect becomes kind of jewel-like with mixed greens and reds.

What happened to the other four redbuds I tried to grow?

Well, there was an earlier 'Forest Pansy', planted in this exact same spot, but it was decapitated in a snowstorm its first year. The following spring it made a valiant effort to carry on, and the foot high stub of the remaining stump tried to bloom, but it didn't make it.

Then there was Cercis candensis 'Silver Cloud' with variegated white and green leaves, but it refused to come back after its first winter. I learned from other gardeners that it is not a robust cultivar. It wants just exactly the right amount of partial shade and just the right amount of water and it apparently didn't trust me to provide either.

My one success, until I lost it, was Cercis reniformis 'Oklahoma'. It was a spectacular tree, and I had it for five years before a freak October snowstorm in 2011 took it down.

It was most beautiful in bloom, in late April, just outside the bedroom window.




After blooming on bare wood in early spring, 'Oklahoma' would fill out with glossy heart shaped leaves. It had become a shapely round headed tree, just the right size and a pleasing form.

But this was the last I saw of it after a too-early wet snow hit before the leaves had fallen:

And there was another redbud that I lost. It was one of those 10 free bare root seedlings that comes in an envelope in the mailbox when you donate to Arbor Day. It was about seven inches tall when I planted it in 2006, and six years later it was a sizable young tree. This was a species Cercis canadensis, not a fancy cultivar. I put it out in the meadow, where it got no special attention, and it grew into a multi-stemmed wild child. It did great. Then last year it died.

So, four failures, and here I go again with my hopes rising for my newest 'Forest Pansy' redbud as it opens its pink flowers this May and promises wine red leaves for summer.

 

48 comments:

  1. I can't imagine such trouble with Redbuds. Of course I have not had a finiky one to try to grow. I hope you have the best of luck with this one. It is a beauty.

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    1. Lisa, I think this one will be the keeper!

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  2. You are a horti-trooper Laurie. I planted three species redbud and last year one of them died from what we believe was verticillium wilt. Looked great all spring then, whoosh, the entire tree wilted and then died. Fortunately the other two are a reasonable distance away and should not get contaminated. I wish you success with your new redbud.

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    1. Patty, I like that name -- horti-trooper! I wish you success as well with your remaining redbuds. They are so worth growing.

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  3. Hang in there! They are prone to breaking under ice/snow. Our most successful one is a straight C. canadensis, which was pruned to be multi-stemmed when it was quite young. We have several other young ones (all seedlings of that parent)which have not been pruned that way, so we have lost some of those. However, the tree doesn't object to massive scars or splits, so one can prune away with impunity. The good news is they grow fast.
    http://acairfearann.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/cercis-canadensis/
    http://acairfearann.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/eastern-redbud-in-full-bloom/

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    1. Acair Fearann, thanks for the great info on this tree. It did seem that the October snowstorm in '11 cracked almost every redbud in the area. Their weak wood made them as vulnerable as the Callery pear trees, which also fell apart then.

      I am glad to discover your blog and am enjoying a tour around Esperanza!

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  4. What beautiful trees, I can see why you want to persist with growing one. The view of the one in bloom through your window is just gorgeous.

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    1. Paula, thanks. The blooming is just for a short time, but it is so spectacular in early spring. And the rest of the time this is an attractive, nicely shaped small tree, perfect for the garden.

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  5. I totally understand why you'd keep trying--redbuds are so beautiful. I'll keep everything crossed for this one. :)

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    1. Heather. I am crossing fingers for this one too!

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  6. I'm rooting for this one to thrive for you! What a bummer that you've had so much bad luck with this tree. I planted a Forest Pansy last fall and I'm still waiting for it to flower and leaf out. I've heard it is one of the latest trees to leaf out in the spring. Meanwhile, I'm on tenterhooks.

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    1. Alison, I hope you will post about your Forest Pansy & we can compare (or commiserate?) Good luck!

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  7. Fingers crossed that five is the magic number! They're so beautiful, no wonder you keep trying.

    I received a free one last year (not sure of the specific name) and though its leaves are returning this year, I have not seen any sign of flower buds. I'm hoping it's because I moved it in March and disrupted it somehow.

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    1. Kathryn, the species tree that I planted in the meadow did not flower for the first years. Yours may not because of the move, but if it is still very young, that may be affecting flowering too. The others that I bought were already several years old when I planted them, and they did bloom for me each year.

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  8. Laurrie, as you are such a fine gardener, your run of losses makes me appreciate my lone 'Forest Pansy' even more. Here's hoping your fifth try will be the charm for you. You've earned a victory.

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    1. Lee, Do you think I should give up after five tries? If this one doesn't make it . . . well, I won't entertain that thought! You will have to leave your Forest Pansy when you sell the house and garden. I hope the new buyers will love it and keep it growing well.

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  9. Thanks for the pics, Laurrie.

    From your Forest Pansy images, I think I may have figured out what all the red-leaved trees are that I see around town! :)

    Good luck with your new Redbud!!

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    1. Aaron, thanks. I'm surprised you see a lot of Forest Pansy redbuds around town -- they aren't planted that much in my area. (You might be seeing purpleleaf plums, those are common, at least around here and are lovely red-leaved trees.)

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  10. I applaud your gardener's tenacity and you WILL win! Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' is a glorious plant! I hope this one gives you many, many years of happiness.

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    1. Gardening Shoe, I am banking on years and years of beauty from this one. May it be so!

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  11. I sure hope your new Redbud makes it. They are such beautiful trees. A Redbud was the first tree we planted on this property. It was so pretty, but suffered the same fate as yours....the heavy rain and strong winds broke the poor little thing right in two. Hubby had to dig out the stump!

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    1. Christy, I am finding out that redbuds are quite weak wooded, and that's why so many of us lose them in storms. Too bad about yours. I take it you did not replant another.

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  12. All of them are very particular about siting. They abhor a windy site. My friend and grower will not grow this tree in any cultivar because he can not warranty them. He won't even let me spec them either for this reason. I have some I have planted as I designed and they are still alive ten to twenty years later, but they are really in protected locations. One of the jobs is one of the three I highlighted on my blog.

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    1. Donna, I guess my own experience is bearing out what your grower friend knows about these trees! My newest Forest Pansy is not in a particularly protected spot --- it's not out in an open area, but it's not really a protected area either. Hoping for the best . . .

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  13. Redbuds are beautiful, but I have never had a healthy one in my garden. There was an old redbud in the back when we moved into our current house. It succumbed to some kind of disease about four years later.

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    1. Jason, that's discouraging. I have been hearing from commenters that redbuds are problematic, and that seems to be my experience so far too. Hmmm.

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  14. Redbuds are everywhere here, especially in our woods. I wish I had some kind of sage advice for you, but I don't except for the ever brilliant Good Luck! Maybe Rob at the British Gardener has some smarty pants trick for you to try.

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    1. Tammy, Their natural range is the southeastern US, so maybe I am pushing things this far north. But they are hardy, just not strong-wooded apparently.

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  15. Good luck on your Redbud...5th times the charm!!! I actually planted one this season too in my front island bed! Oh I'm hoping mine does ok?!?! I can't wait to watch it grow and cover some of the front! Keep me posted on how you do and if you have any tips I would love to hear them!!!

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    1. Nicole, It will be interesting to see how your new redbud does. I am hoping it grows beautifully for you, especially since it has a prominent place in your front bed.

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  16. Pretty composition-- love the shot with the bluish evergreen in the background.

    When I was at Hershey Gardens I thought of you-- I took a picture of how they pruned their willows :)

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    1. Larkspur, thanks! I like how the redbud fits in with what I have around it. Would love to see the Hershey pruned willows. I ended up doing nothing with mine, letting them grow into their wild shapes this spring.

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  17. Laurrie, I've read about redbuds. here some people try to grow cercis but it's said that only Cercis canadensis is enough hardy in winter time. But it needs to be covered with some fabric (as spanbond). I love it but do not risk to plant and then lose it.

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    1. Nadezda, it's too bad this pretty tree is not always hardy for your winters. It does sound like it would be too risky for you to try!

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  18. Ouch... I remember when you lost 'Oklahoma', that must have hurt. It's a beautiful tree. I plant Redbuds from the National Arbor Aday Foundation too. Our biggest one at 6-8 years old is over 10 feet tall now.

    I hope number 5 makes it.

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    1. Sweetbay, I sure hope this fifth try makes it too. That's really encouraging that your Arbor Day redbuds have thrived and grown so much from such little starts.

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  19. fifth time's the charm? :) you are one brave gardener to give it another go, a lesser soul would have given up by now. I've got my fingers crossed for you this one lasts.

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    1. Marguerite, well, I may give up if this one ever has the troubles that have plagued other redbuds!

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  20. Last year I had to have a friend fire up the chainsaw on my Cercis 'Forest Pansy'. After doing well for a number of years, it came out of the winter mostly dead. I left it alone to see what would happen and then the October snowstorm knocked it out. As much as I love them I really don't have the room to try again.

    So far 'Silver Cloud' is hanging on although I cut a ton of dead wood out of it every spring. I just looked and it appears a whole main branch is not leafing out. Oy!

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    1. Sue, I seem to be planting all the trees that you are taking out of your garden! (I did get a styrax this year and planted it). I hope my Forest Pansy does better --- my Silver Cloud never made it through one winter, so I'm impressed that at least parts of yours come back. With all the missing parts each spring, is Silver Cloud at least a pretty tree?

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    2. Yes, it's lovely. The variegated foliage makes it stand out like a beacon all season. If it bites the dust though I have my eye on a variegated Cornus kousa 'Akatsuki'.

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  21. What a beauty! You sure are brave to try again and I wish you success with this one :)

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    1. Rosemary, thanks -- here's hoping!

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  22. Forest Pansy is indeed gorgeous and I wish you the best for this new tree! You deserve it! I just planted a weeping variegated redbud 'Whitewater' earlier this year. The weeping form is lovely. Redbuds are native here and sprout up in the woods at random, so I hope this cultivar will do well.

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    1. Deborah, I have never seen a variegated weeping redbud -- must be a pretty one.

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  23. Hmmm ... Forest Pansy is my friend's favorite tree and she's been trying to get me to plant one for a few years now. Your experience has tipped me against this tree, even though they are beautiful.

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