Snowdrops, crocus and daffodils are sure signs that the winter-bare branches of early flowering trees will soon burst forth with bright blooms of spring. They’re Nature’s mood brighteners – the perfect prescription for chasing away the winter drearies. Witch hazels are among the earliest blooming trees to jump start spring, soon to be followed by the bright blooms of Cornelian Cherry Dogwood and Persian Parrotia, as featured in last week’s blog.
Next up – flowering plums and pears! Diversity of species is essential to urban forest health. Flowering trees contribute to urban forest species diversity goals while supporting pollinators and spreading spring cheer.
Prunus cerasifera ‘Newport’
A tried and true plum for cold climates, this hardy and widely planted plum is adaptable to tough climates and challenging growing conditions, and is hardy through USDA Zone 3. Height and spread are approximately 20’ x 20’. Its compact form and adaptability earned it a place on our UtiliTrees™ list.
Mt. St. Helens® Plum
A sport of Newport Plum, this selection by J. Frank Schmidt III has proven to grow faster in the nursery and develop a stronger, sturdier trunk with better caliper than Newport. Hardy through Zone 4, it leafs out earlier in spring than Newport, developing larger leaves that retain their rich color longer into the summer. 20’ x 20 ft. at maturity.
Big Cis® Plum
Prunus x cistena ‘Schmidtcis’
A larger, tree-like version of Cistena Plum, from which it originated as a sport. Leaves are larger and the trunk is heavier than Cistena, but the light pink, fragrant flowers are the same. Foliage is purple and new growth is produced well into summer, giving the tree a fresh, clean appearance later into the season than many purple-leafed plums. Adaptable to varied soils and minimal care, we recommend it on our UtiliTrees™ list as a good tree to plant beneath utility lines. It performs best in climates with cold, dry winters, through USDA Zone 3, maturing to a height and spread of about 14’ x 12’.
Prunus cerasifera ‘Thundercloud’
Selected and introduced in 1937 by Housewearts Nursery of Oregon, this classic cultivar is an enduring favorite. One of the best of the purple leaf plums, it retains deep purple foliage color throughout the growing season.
Krauter Vesuvius Plum
Prunus cerasifera ‘Krauter Vesuvius’
Similar to Thundercloud in appearance, but a little smaller and more upright, this Zone 5 tree performs better than the other cultivars in hotter climates such as Southern California. Introduced in 1958, it was selected by Luther Burbank, the world-renowned horticulturist who developed some 800 plants during his 50+ years career. Enjoy a virtual tour of his home and gardens in Santa Rosa, California, preserved as a National Historic Site and city park.
Pyrus calleryana ‘Jaczam’
A welcome, pint-sized addition to the flowering pear family, Jack® is a unique dwarf form that greets spring with clouds of fragrant white blooms. Its symmetrical branches sport glossy green foliage in summer that turns a medley of yellow, red and orange in autumn. Growing to less than half the size typical of the species, it reaches about 16 feet in height with a spread of about 10 feet at maturity. Ideal for planting along narrow streets and beneath utility wires, this versatile member of our UtiliTrees™ product line combines branch density with upright growth habit to give the unusual combination of a formal appearance in a low maintenance tree.
Pyrus ‘NCPX’ PP 26539
Pink buds that open to white flowers in early spring are soon followed by glossy leaves that emerge purple and mature to dark green. Hybridized and selected by Dr. Tom Ranney of North Carolina State University, this hybrid has superior fireblight resistance and has proven tolerant of heat and drought. Fall color is orange red. A strong central leader and upright branches with open angles promise ease of care. Extremely narrow form makes this ornamental pear hybrid a perfect fit for the space between sidewalk and street and other space-challenged landscapes. Hardy through USDA Zone 5, its mature height and spread is 35’ x 10’.
Pyrus x triploida ‘NCPX2 PP 30788
Prolific white blooms of spring are followed by foliage that emerges bright green and becomes dark green as it matures. Fall color is a kaleidoscopic medley of red, orange, yellow and purple colors. Developed by Dr. Tom Ranney of North Carolina State University, it delivers the beauty and durability of flowering pears without its negative characteristics. Broadly pyramidal in form, Chastity® Pear matures to an upright oval shape with sturdy branches and a dominant central leader as it reaches a height and spread of approximately 35 ‘x 25’. USDA hardiness rating is Zone 5.
Poised to replace other flowering pears in areas where invasiveness is a concern, this fireblight-resistant cultivar is a highly infertile, induced triploid hybrid, specifically bred to prevent weediness. Cornell University’s Woody Plants Database notes Chastity® Pear to be the “First truly sterile form of this tree. Should be used where chance of invasiveness is probable”