abc logo Compatible Large Trees and Flowering Trees
Rhododendron ABC's #23

Continuing (completing) our discussion ofRhododendron companion plantings, I should like to mention a few (out of very many) large evergreen and also flowering trees that I find very interesting and desireable for inclusion in a rhododendron garden collection. I had thought that it would take two issues, but I think one issue will do the job!

Of the many evergreens that are available, I choose three that I put right at the top of the list. Remember, this is a personal choice, very subjective and does not mean that other possibilities are inferior in any way--only that I know and like them, very much.

Of the true firs in the Genus, Abies, I admire the Spanish Fir, Abies pinsapo, a native of the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain. This tree has short, stiff and sharp needles on stiff branches. Aside from its appearance as almost a perfect shape for a conifer, the new growth often has shades of light green, highlighted with tones of pink and yellow whichwe very attractive.

The Japanese Umbrella Pine, Sciadopitys verticilliata,offers a pleasing contrast to the more formal true firs. This Japanese ornamental has handsome foliage with glossy needles up to six inches long, growing in whorls of 20 to 30. Although it can eventually, become a very large tree (100 feet in height), it is slow growing. As it matures, it assumes a drooping appearance and the top flares, reminiscent of an umbrella-hence the name.

For a truly, handsome large and native North American tree, I choose the Shasta Red Fir, Abies magnifica. Everything about the tree is attractive, including its still bluish-green needles and its seed cones. It is presumptions to believe that these three conifers are the very best out of so many, so don't ignore the many pines, spruces, cypresses, and cedars that am available. For example, the Incense cedar, Libocedrusdecrens from Southern Oregon provides a graceful, columnar tree that, since it grows. in a very upright manner, doesn't occupy too much space in the garden.

Of the flowering trees, I really have a problem because there are so many of so much beauty and variation. Magnolias have always been considered to go well with rhododendrons and thrive in similar soil conditions. Probably the most spectacular is the Himalayan, Magnolia campbelli. Its flowers can be up to 10 inches wide and open very early in the Spring. Owing to this, they often are frosted and damaged, so a som-what better choice is its subspecies, Mollicomata, which can be very beautiful with numerous pink, lily-like flowers in the Spring on bare branches. A very handsome evergreen Magnolia, often called the Bull Bay, Magnolia grandiflora, is native to the Gulf States of the U.S. It is surprisingly hardy and can be grown anywhere along the Pacific coast and is hardy on the East coast as far north as Philadelphia. In addition to its glossy green evergreen leaves, its large white flowers are scented and send out a fine fragrance. Many other Magnolia species and hybrids are available and one can be tempted, very easily, to collect many of them.

Of the other flowering trees, I suggest consideration of a selected clone of the Red Bud, Cercis candensis. The clone has been named the "Forest Pansy" and is an absolutely wonderful tree. Masses of red flowers in the Spring are followed by red-purple, heart-shaped leaves that seem to glow in the sun. Some horticulturists consider this to be the very best flowering tree and I find myself somewhat in agreement with them!

Finally I must consider the Dove or Hankerchief Tree, Davidia involucrata. This is the tree that Ernest Wilson (Chinese Wilson) first went to China to collect. It grows well and, when its white irregular bracts appear, it gives the appearance of white doves among its green leaves. It is somewhat rare (but is available at a price!) owing to the fact that it is difficult to propagate. For those with space, it is a must. Harold Greer is of the opinion that it is one of the most unusual and beautiful trees in the plant kingdom. One could offer a long list of other fine flowering trees and shouldn't ignore the Dogwoods, especially our native Cornus nuttalli and the Korean Cornus kousa. From all this, it can be seen that many trees can be considered to accentuate a rhododendron collection. Those that I have mentioned are some I've liked, but the possibilities are almost boundless. Finding the right ones for a personal collection can give a lot of satisfaction.

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Dave Goheen