Uncommonly Interesting

For some home gardeners, when it comes to specimen trees and shrubs, it’s all about the fragrance.   For others, it’s multi-seasonal interest.  Here are a just a few interesting trees and shrubs that fulfill either or both of those landscaping preferences. 

Carolina Silverbell has yellow fall foliage and works well in a woodland planting.

Carolina Silverbell has yellow fall foliage and works well in a woodland planting. (Image: “Halesia carolina0” by Kurt Stüber [1] – caliban.mpiz-koeln.mpg.de/mavica/index.html part of www.biolib.de. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Halesia_carolina0.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Halesia_carolina0.jpg)

Halesia Carolina, Carolina Silverbell, native to the southern Appalachian Mountains, is typically an understory tree.  It rarely exceeds 35’ in height, and is best known for its numerous bell-shaped flowers, which are best viewed from below, as they hang from the branches in spring.  The blossoms are quite popular with hummingbirds as well.  Carolina Silverbell offers fall foliage, bark, and seed pod interest.   The genus Halesia belongs to the same family as Styrax, and is native to eastern Asia and eastern North America.  Carolina Silverbell prefers moist, rich soil in a location protected from wind.

Japanese Silverbell

Japanese Silverbell is primarily known for its fragrant pendulous blossoms, but fall foliage occasionally provides color interest. (Image: © jaholcombe – Fotolia.com)

Styrax japonicus, Japanese Snowbell, is native to China, Japan and Korea, usually attains a height of 20-30’.  Japanese Snowbell blossoms are slightly fragrant, and hang below the upturned leaves, near the tips of the branches.  Like their cousin Carolina Silverbell, Japanese Snowbell trees prefer moist, rich soil.  Fissured older branches reveal their orange inner bark in winter.

Viburnums, native to North America and Asia, are “Go To” shrubs for floral, foliage, and fruit interest.  There are over 150 species and cultivars of viburnums, some of which have potently fragranced pink or white blossoms, and are generally tough as nails.  Cultivars of Viburnum  species carlesii, bodnantense, carlcephalum, and judii  are especially known for their fragrant flowers.  Some viburnums can grow to 30’, and the leaf forms vary in shape, texture, and density.  Viburnums occur in both evergreen and deciduous forms, and are considered deer resistant.  They generally need shade in the afternoon, but some species can tolerate even more shade, and they tend to do best in moist, rich soil.

Viburnum carlcephalum's snowball blossoms clusters are followed by maroon fall foliage.

Viburnum carlcephalum’s snowball blossoms clusters are followed by maroon fall foliage. (Image: “Viburnum-carlcephalum” by Sten at da.wikipedia – Transferred from da.wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viburnum-carlcephalum.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Viburnum-carlcephalum.JPG)

Michelia figo , a member of the Magnoliceae family, is also known as Banana Shrub.  It  is native to China, and grows to be 6-10’ tall.  The flowers range in color from creamy white through dark purple, with the lighter colors displaying a thin dark red margin on the petals.  As interesting as that is, the main attraction of banana shrub is the flower’s strong fragrance of banana.  Banana shrub also makes a good hedging plant.  Banana shrub is typically evergreen, prefers rich, moist soil, and can tolerate shade.  Protection from strong winds and placement are important.  Planting in a sheltered location facing south could result in premature opening of the flower buds.

Consider planting some of these un-and-not-quite-common trees and shrubs this fall.  It’s that time, you know.








(Header photo: – “Michelia figo Purple Queen1” by KENPEI – KENPEI’s photo. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelia_figo_Purple_Queen1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Michelia_figo_Purple_Queen1.jpg)