By Steve Smith, Sunnyside Nursery
In these sometimes gloomy days of June, when it seems like the sun will never shine again and the mercury will never get above 60 degrees, Mother Nature has provided us with some bright spots of color and optimism. While most of our trees bloom in March through May, there are three specific ones that wait until June just so they can cheer us up after the fireworks of May have subsided. These trees are Korean dogwoods, Japanese Snowbells and stewartia. All of these trees are small to medium in size, relatively pest free and easy to grow.
Korean dogwoods (Cornus kousa) bloom for most of the month of June and can be either white or pink with green or variegated leaves. They grow in a more or less globe shape, unlike the eastern dogwood (Cornus florida) which blooms in May and has a much more horizontal growth habit. Korean dogwoods have superior disease resistance to the eastern varieties and have also been crossed with our Pacific native dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) to create varieties such as Venus and Starlight, which have huge flowers that measure 6 inches across. Rutgers University has also made some hybrids between the Korean and Eastern species. My favorite is one called Stellar Pink. Whatever you decide, you can see most of these blooming at the garden center as we speak. They are easy to grow and will give you years of pleasure.
Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonica) is a delightful tree for a small space which sports one inch long white bells all along its branches in June. It grows to around 15 feet tall and 10 feet across. A newer variety called Slender Silhouette only gets 4 feet to 5 feet wide. I have growing in my backyard a related species called Styrax obassia, which is also called Fragrant Snowbell, which I dearly love but have to admit that it doesn’t have much fragrance. But it does have large 5 inch round leaves which look unlike any other trees we are used to seeing, and that is what I love about it.
Stewartias are highly sought after trees for their June camellia-like white blooms with yellow centers, fabulous fall color, and exfoliating bark for winter interest. They are slow growing and consequently a little pricey but well worth the extra expense. Any gardener worth his salt would love to have one in his garden. I have seen at least three different species on the market but it seems like pseudocamellia is the most popular. Stewartias can potentially get taller than either dogwoods or snowbells, but it takes forever so I wouldn’t loose too much sleep over their ultimate size.
Our class for Saturday, June 16, is on rain gardens. Click here for more info on classes.
In the mean time keep baiting for slugs and spraying for mildew until the weather finally dries out.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.