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Revel In The Shade Tree Flowers Of Late Summer

Revel In The Shade Tree Flowers Of Late Summer

By Nancy Buley, Communications Director, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
Photographs courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

Summer-blooming trees are unusual and largely overlooked when selecting flowering trees. Why not choose trees that flower during the season when the sun is shining and you’re most likely to be outdoors enjoying your garden? You’ll enjoy the flowers, and so will the pollinators that are sure to be attracted by the late season blooms. In June, GardenSMART’s In the Dirt newsletter highlighted a dozen flowering trees that extend spring’s bounty of blooms into the summer months. These beauties will take the parade of flowers right on into autumn. 

Goldenrain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) leads the summer flower parade that kicks off around the time of the summer solstice. Impressive for its beauty in midsummer, it is also very attractive to pollinators and ranks high on the list of Plants Bees Like Best.

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Clusters of bright yellow flowers borne on foot-long upright spikes float atop its canopy of fine-textured, pinnately compound leaves. Lovely to look at, they are also observed to be a favorite of both honeybees and bumblebees, according to research conducted by University of Kentucky entomologists and supported by the Horticultural Research Institute. This unusually heat and drought-resistant tree grows in a rounded shape to a height and spread of about 30 ft.

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Two new cultivars offer unique characteristics that expand the landscape options for this species. Coral Sun Goldenrain Tree (K. paniculata ‘Coral Sun’) PP 17409, top photo, originated in Europe and is unique for its fern-like compound leaflets that emerge flamingo pink along bright coral pink stems before gradually maturing to medium green. Called “sunshine on a stick” by its introducers, its fall color is golden yellow. Smaller than typical of the species, this petite garden tree matures to a height and spread of approximately 20 x 13 ft. Summerburst® Goldenrain Tree (K. paniculata ‘JFS-Sunleaf’), the photo directly above, discovered in northern Ohio, is remarkable for its darker green, glossy foliage and lantern-like seed capsules that are blushed with pink. It is appreciated for its heat resistance, improved foliage quality and its rounded, symmetrical canopy. Fall color is yellow to yellow-orange. Mature height and spread is approximately 30 x 30 ft.

For space-challenged landscapes, consider planting Columnar Goldenrain Tree (K. paniculata ‘Fastigiata’). This very narrow cultivar offers the same spiky yellow blooms but only grows to about 25 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide.

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Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) is sometimes called "Lily of the Valley Tree," thanks to its long-lasting clusters of fragrant, creamy white, bell-shaped flowers that appear in mid-summer when few other trees are in bloom. Attractive long after the white blooms are gone, the lacy clusters of golden-brown flower stalks are suspended above the dark green leaves. Autumn colors are a remarkably bright combination of red, orange, yellow and purple. This unusual small tree grows to a height of about 25 ft. and spread of about 15 ft. It is rated hardy through USDA Zone 5.

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Franklin Tree (Franklinia alatamaha) is beloved for its beautiful flowers that mark the passage of summer into fall. From August to October, Franklin Tree sports peony-like single white flowers with brightly contrasting yellow centers. Upright and spreading in character, this namesake of Benjamin Franklin has handsome reddish-brown bark that brings color and interest to the winter garden. Its dark green leaves contrast with the white flowers, which bloom in concert with the leaves turning orange to red in autumn. Discovered in 1765 along the Altamaha River in southern Georgia by the pioneering colonial plant explorers John and William Bartram, this historically significant tree is no longer found in the wild. Rated hardy through USDA Zone 5, it eventually grows to a height of about 25 ft. with a spread of 10 to 15 ft.

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Seven Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides) is a rugged individual; unique in form, flower, foliage and bark. Glossy green summer foliage is lush and tropical in appearance, with narrow, rather thick, strongly-veined leaves that resist heat and drying winds.

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Petite, fragrant white flowers appear in clusters of seven in late summer. These delicate, star-shaped blooms attract hummingbirds, butterflies, honeybees and other pollinators, and are inspiration for the “Hepta-” and “seven son” segments of the Latin and common names. After petals drop, the long lasting, ornamental calyxes take center stage, shining bright red to maroon well into autumn. Attractive year-round, winter is the season when curling ribbons of exfoliating, vertically striped, grey-brown bark create the perfect foil for sparkling, pure white snow.

Extremely adaptable to varied growing conditions, it is recommended by numerous regional plant selection guides.

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Tree Hydrangeas are in a class of their own, and a perfect choice for those whose garden space is a patio, a deck, or a rooftop. Best known as shrubs, some cultivars of these summer bloomers can be trained from the cutting stage to grow as small trees with a stout single trunk. We grow three of the Proven Winners®-brand cultivars of Hydrangea paniculata as small trees, a species that is very popular with gardeners as well as pollinators. The Proven Winners® cultivars Limelight (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ PP 12878), pictured above, Pinky Winky® (H. p. ‘DVPPinky’ PP 16166) and Quick Fire® (H.p. ‘Bulk’ PP 16812) adapt very well to being grown as trees. All offer fabulous, long-lasting blooms that can be brought indoors to be enjoyed fresh and/or dried for months-long enjoyment.

But wait there’s more! If these featured favorites don’t strike your fancy, feel free to explore these unusual summer-blooming trees on your own: Linden (Tilia americana, cordata, tomentosa), Mountain Gordlinia (X Gordlinia grandiflora), Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus), Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia ssp, many cultivars), and Beebee Tree (Tetradium danielii).


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Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice®

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