Chinese fringetree offers showy fragrant white blooms followed
by dark purple olive-sized fruit relished by birds.
fringetrees have been on the spectacular side the last week or so, and
they will be the same in your garden as they have in Savannah, Ga.
Botanically speaking they are known as Chionanthus retusus, with
Chionanthus meaning snow flower.
Snow flower is
very appropriate and -- like our native Grancy grey-beard, Chionanthus
virginicus, they make a dramatic statement in the landscape.
Though they are native to China, this week I was quick to point out to
a business delegation from Korea that this outstanding tree and
several others in our garden were also native to their country.
fringetree is cold hardy from zones 5 to 9 and much of the country
will see the glistening white flowers in May and June as warm weather
moves north. The native or white fringetreeís flowers open before
leaves, while the Chinese fringetree blooms after leaf emergence. The
trees are the perfect size for the urban landscape, reaching 15 to 20
feet tall with an equal spread over time.
flowers offer a delightful fragrance and partner well with other
springtime bloomers. At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens we have
our in close proximity to a 55,000 gallon water feature that is ever
so picturesque. The companions are the almost iridescent blooms of the
loropetalum or Chinese fringe flower and hollies that serve as a great
green backdrop. A screen of dark green screen whether conifers or
hollies really show off the white blossoms.
In the fall the
Chinese fringetree offers a good source of yellow along with purple
olive-sized fruit. As the fruit matures it becomes a prized source of
food for both the American robin and cedar waxwing -- one morning the
fruit is there and by afternoon it will be picked clean, which is
joyous to observe.
production has always been a little challenging for the native species
giving way to its Chinese cousin. I assure you that you will be making
an outstanding choice. When you find yours it does pay to plant it
Choose a site
with full sun to partial shade. The soil should be moist and fertile
but very well drained. Dig your planting hole about twice as wide as
the root ball but no deeper. You do not want the tree planted too deep
or sinking. The top of the root ball should be even with the soil
like prolonged dry periods so I have really become accustomed to
forming about a 4-inch berm outside the root ball area at the time of
planting. This allows you to usually add about 5 gallons of water that
will be directed to the most important zone while the tree is getting
established. After a year the berm can be removed.
Trees can be
male or female. The male trees have showier blossoms while the female
tree produces olive-like blue fruit relished by birds. Unfortunately
you most likely will not have a choice at the garden center. There is
also a wonderful selection called China Snow that is smaller and bears
the showy fruit.
blossoms, fruit for birds and a small but statuesque structure makes
this an ideal plant for your landscape. If you could use a small tree
then shop your local garden center this spring and see if they might
have the Chinese fringetee.