Sunday, February 26, 2017

Another Chance

When the day comes that we ever move out west, and if I ever wind up with a small patio or courtyard that wants some plants, I will need to learn a whole new world of horticulture for a different climate.

I've been reading about what grows at 7,000 feet in alkaline soil in the southwest, and much of it is new to me. So I was pleased when I kept coming across recommendations for a small flowering tree that is widely planted there, and . . .

      . . . it was an old favorite that I have grown and that I loved.

Cercis canadensis reniformis 'Oklahoma'
(synonymous with texensis)

In 2005, the year after we moved here, I planted an 'Oklahoma' redbud tree. It was one of the first plants I put in. It was spectacular.

Although Cercis canadensis is an "eastern" redbud, the reniformis subspecies (now called texensis) grows in the west and is noticeably different. Why I wanted a western plant when I first started planting trees in New England, I don't know. There were plenty of commonly available eastern redbuds in nurseries here, but I sent away to Forestfarm to get this specific western variety.


It was probably the description that hooked me so.
Texensis (reniformis) is native to Oklahoma and Texas, is shrubbier, more compact than the straight species. It differs from the straight species by having  
(1) slightly more drought tolerance 
(2) darker and brighter wine red buds and flowers 
(3) glossier, thicker, broader and darker green leaves, more reniform (kidney-shaped) 
(4) leaves that are rounded or blunt (not pointed)  
(5) winter hardiness to USDA Zone 6 (species to Zone 4). 
‘Oklahoma’ is even more compact and broad-rounded than Cercis canadensis var. texensis, typically maturing to 12-18’ tall. Its flowers are darker (rosy magenta to wine red) and its leaves are a richer green with more gloss and wax. 
    --- Missouri Botanical Garden plant profile


Mine absolutely showed these characteristics -- shiny leaves, deep color in bloom, a fast growing, densely leafy tree. In flower it lit up the side of the house and made the bedroom glow. After blooming, the thick glossy green leaves shaded the window and made a home for birds that we could watch from inside.


My 'Oklahoma' redbud did so much better than any of the others I planted. I have poor experience with redbuds. I planted a 'Silver Cloud' variegated one that never survived its first winter.

A species redbud planted on the back hill disappeared from unknown causes years ago.

My first attempt at planting the purple leaved 'Forest Pansy' resulted in decapitation and death one winter. My second attempt at 'Forest Pansy' is still standing, but grows smaller each year with winterkill. It's never flowered much.

But oh, the western redbud at the side of the house -- what a beautiful tree it was. I never did get a good photo of it in leaf in summer. Mostly I was captivated by the intensity and profusion of flowers, and so my photos were all taken in early spring.


But it was such a pretty shape, and getting to be a good size. The best I can show you is this terribly out of focus shot, which is an awful picture, but it does at least give an idea of the form of this western redbud.


I wish I had taken better photos of it in all seasons. Because I lost it in 2011.

A freak heavy snowstorm in late October that year weighed down the big heart shaped leaves, which were all still on the tree at that time of year. The weight split the tree in two and it was gone. I miss it.

But who knows, I may have another chance to grow an 'Oklahoma' redbud, in another climate better suited to it. If I do ever get that second chance, it will be like having an old friend with me in a new place.

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