The monochromatic colors of snowy winter landscapes leave us longing for color in our gardens and landscapes. Trees with late-winter or early-spring flowers bring a burst of bright color to dreary winter scenes. They can also jump start garden center sales by bringing color and the promise of warmer days to customers who can hardly wait to get started with their spring planting.
Cornelian Cherry Dogwoods and Persian Parrotia lead the late-winter flower parade, followed by Red Maples. Rarely regarded as flowering trees, they’re among our favorites for delivering a spring wakeup call. Individual flowers are tiny, but remarkably bright when in full bloom. Their small, brick-red flowers are barely noticed by most people, but we “tree geeks” cheer when these harbingers of spring appear!
Golden Glory Cornelian Cherry
Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory’
First among trees to flower, this bold bloomer bursts into bloom even before the forsythia. Tight buds clustered along its winter-bare branches explode into masses of small, sulfur-yellow flowers in late winter or early spring. They are particularly bold and beautiful when topped with a layer of snow. Glossy dark green foliage and bright red, cherry-like edible fruits appear among leaves of late summer that turn reddish orange in autumn. This handsome and vigorous cultivar is notable for its abundant fruit crop. Featuring a more upright growth habit than seedling-grown trees, it also sports brighter yellow flowers and glossier foliage. Mature height and spread are approximately 22’ x 17’.
Saffron Sentinel® Cornelian Cherry
Cornus mas ‘JFS PN4Legacy’
This remarkably columnar selection of Cornelian Cherry Dogwood is vigorous, symmetrical, and resistant to pests and diseases. Foliage remains clean and dark green throughout the summer months. Bright red oval fruits ripen in late summer and remain on the tree as the dark green leaves transition to red in autumn. Dark brown bark exfoliates with age, complementing the deep crimson fall color and adding winter interest. Height and spread are approximately 22’ x 12’. Though our crop is sold out for the season, it can be found in customer nurseries across the continent.
This unusual species breaks the spell of monochromatic late winter/early spring landscapes when its small, dark brown buds open to reveal pinkish-maroon flowers. Composed of fringe-like stamens, the blooms are subtle but enchanting when viewed up close. Spring brings deep green, boldly textured leaves that turn to brilliant tones of orange, red, pink, purple and yellow in autumn. This all-season beauty is drought and pest tolerant, and adaptable to varied soils and growing conditions. Height and spread are variable for seedling-grown trees. For space-challenged landscapes and predictable performance, choose among the shapely cultivars we offer.
Parrotia persica ‘Vanessa’
Offering upright, narrow form and greater density than is typical of the species, this time-tested cultivar is a better choice for smaller-scale landscapes or for use near streets. Its distinctive shape, drought tolerance, low maintenance requirements, and adaptability to varied soils and climates earn this versatile small tree a place on our UtiliTrees™ list.
Tiny flowers with bright red stamens bloom in late winter, augmenting the beauty of exfoliating grey and tan bark. Slightly scalloped, oval leaves emerge with burgundy edges and turn medium green as they mature. Autumn brings a kaleidoscopic display of bronze, crimson, orange, red and gold leaves.
Ruby Vase Parrotia
Parrotia persica ‘Inge’s Ruby Vase’
Red-tipped new growth of spring matures to dark green in summer and finishes with bright orange-red fall color. Tiny flowers with bright red stamens bloom in late winter complement the beauty of its exfoliating grey and tan bark.
Upright branch angles allow for pruning for clearance for pedestrians and vehicles, earning it a place on our UtiliTrees® list. Like Vanessa, it was selected for its more upright, narrow form, drought tolerance and adaptability to varied soils and climates. Slightly wider at maturity than Vanessa, it matures to a height and spread of 28’ x 16.’
Persian Spire™ Parrotia
Parrotia persica ‘JL Columnar’
Refined foliage emerges purple and matures to green with purple-tinted margins that linger into the summer months. Fall color is a bright medley of orange, red, yellow and burgundy tones. This diminutive cultivar offers the same urban toughness and resistance to pests and diseases as the species, in a compact package that’s a perfect fit for courtyards, containers, rooftop gardens, and other confined planting spaces. Maturing to a height and spread of 25’ x 10’, it joins our UtiliTrees™ collection of trees suited for planting beneath utility lines and between sidewalk and street.
Acer rubrum cultivars
Mention red maples, and their brilliant red fall color comes to mind. But they glow red in spring, as well, when the buds on their reddish stems and twigs open to reveal masses of tiny red flowers and present a spring wakeup call. The small clusters of bright red flowers hang from bare twigs before the leaves emerge. Singly, they’re not particularly impressive, but collectively, they form subtly beautiful clouds of brick-red that bring color to the late winter landscape. Male flowers look like tiny sparklers, with long stamens capped with yellow pollen. Female flowers hang in drooping clusters, with stigma that extend above the petals.
There are many fine cultivars from which to choose. Red Sunset® (pictured), Redpointe®, Armstrong Gold®, October Glory®, the seedless Sun Valley and the compact, columnar Red Rocket are top performers. Refer to our online Tree Guide for detailed descriptions and photos of each.