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A large shrub or small tree, Albizia julibrissin is native to Iran to Japan. It is a fast-growing plant whose seedlings can become invasive. It can be seen growing in the wild in the southeastern U.S. and California in waste places, fields, and along roads.
However, its bipinnate, ferny leaves and fluffy pink flowerheads that cover the tree in summer make it a garden-worthy plant, as do the fragrance emitted by the flowers, which attract bees. Seed pods that resemble flat beans follow the flowers and persist into winter. Still, care should be used so that seeds from garden plants can't escape into the wild.
This stunning evergreen conifer can be a very large specimen tree (to over 100 feet) in the landscape. Its young, silvery foliage turns vivid glaucous blue as it ages; the sharply pointed leaves are arranged in whorls. Female cones are green and can be up to 4 inches long; they ripen slowly over 2 years to pale brown. This tree needs a lot of space to reach its majestic potential.
This spreading, deciduous tree native to Japan and China has a rounded form and rounded, redbud-like leaves. It grows to 70 feet tall and 50 feet wide and sports brilliant red, apricot, and yellow fall color. Early spring flowers are insignificant. This attractive tree makes an excellent specimen. 'Pendula', a weeping form, is this species' most popular cultivar.
This is a conical tree with drooping branches and vertical, flattened sprays of bluish green to dark green foliage. This graceful cultivar has upward-curved branches with drooping branchlets and an open crown when mature. Male cones are ovoid, brownish green, and 1/8 inches long. Female cones are green, 1/2 inch long, with a recurved central hook on each scale, maturing in spring.
Hinoki cypress is a conical, evergreen, coniferous tree with leaves that are actually minute scales on tiny branches in the form of fans. The outer foliage of 'Aurea' is golden and the inner is green. Growth can be slow. Use as a specimen or use several as screening.
This dwarf Chamaecyparis has a weeping habit and gold to lime green finely-textured needles. It's great for providing year-round color.
Yellowwood is a vase-shaped spreading tree with dark green foliage that turns a delicate yellow or orange in the fall and smooth light gray bark. Breathtaking, pendulous, foot-long, wisteria-like clusters of fragrant white flowers appear in late spring and early summer, often in alternate years.
This cross of the European smoke bush (C. coggygria) and the American smoke tree (C. obovatus) is a gem in the garden thanks to its multiseason interest. Its iridescent spring foliage is green overlaid with red; then its large pink clouds of blooms in summer are followed by brilliant autumn foliage that ranges from red to orange. 'Grace' combines well with just about anything; asters, ornamental grasses, and Japanese maples are good places to start.
This species boasts maroon-speckled stems and green flowers with maroon margins. The flowers occur on thick, solitary stalks bearing bottle-brush-like wands of tightly-clung florets, which are crowned by tufts of green bracts. As the common name implies, these unusual and magnificent inflorescences are reminiscent of pineapples.
This species boasts stems and undersides of leaves with maroon spotting, and white flowers tinged with maroon. The flowers form on 24-inch-long, thick stalks bearing bottle-brush-like wands of tightly-clung florets, which are crowned by tufts of green bracts. As the common name implies, these unusual and magnificent inflorescences are reminiscent of pineapples.
This outstanding cultivar boasts dark burgundy leaves that slowly change to olive green, and then revert back dramatically as the flowers fade. The flowers form on 20- to 30-inch stalks bearing bottle-brush-like wands of tight, smokey pink florets, which are crowned by tufts of purple bracts. As the common name implies, these unusual and magnificent inflorescences are reminiscent of pineapples.
An excellent shade tree, this European-native deciduous tree grows to 80 feet tall and 50 feet wide and features an upright, oval form and dark shiny green leaves that turn yellow to rust-colored in fall. Its spring flowers are insignificant, though the small nuts that follow are favored by birds and squirrels. This tree is slow-growing. Several cultivars are available, including those with differing forms and foliage colors.
Discovered in the wild along Georgia's Altamaha River in 1765 by botanists John and William Bartram, this beautiful landscape tree is considered extinct in the wild. The Bartrams named the plant in honor of their friend Benjamin Franklin. All Franklinias today are descended from those propagated by the Bartrams in their Philadelphia garden. It is a deciduous, understory tree with an upright habit. It can be grown as a single-trunked tree or a multi-stemmed shrub. The fragrant white flowers have bushy yellow stamens and the leaves are dark green and glossy, turning orange, red, and purple in the fall. It blooms in late summer and early autumn, when few other trees are in flower. The fruit that follows is woody and spherical. Franklin tree makes a great addition to an open area of a woodland garden.
One of the oldest tree species on the planet, ginkgo grows only about a foot a year, reaching 50 to 80 feet. Female trees set fleshy fruit that smell unpleasant as they decay; they contain edible nuts.
Honey locust grows in the wild from Pennsylvania to Iowa and south to Georgia and Texas. In the landscape, this large, spreading, deciduous tree is valuable for its elegant form and pinnate, ferny leaves that cast a dappled shade. Flowers are generally inconspicuous, but are followed by unusual large seed pods. Fall color can be a nice yellow, but leaves sometimes fall without noticeably changing colors. The species has a thorny trunk and shoots, but thornless cultivars are available.
Dense clusters of pendulous yellow flowers dangle from spreading branches in late spring. Leaves are dark green. Smooth green bark adds some winter interest.
This is a fast-growing, upright deciduous tree with delicate white flowers in early summer. As it matures, it develops a spectacular patchwork of bark in shades of gray, maroon, and brown. Oblong dark green leaves turn red-orange in autumn. Cultivar 'Fantasy' is vigorous and hardier than the species, with exceptional bark.
Crape myrtle is an upright deciduous tree or large shrub. Dark green leaves emerge bronze. White, pink, red, or purple flowers appear from summer to autumn. Peeling gray-and-brown bark is attractive.
A deciduous conifer with a pyramidal growth habit, European larch has pendulous lower branches. In spring, needles emerge a shiny chartreuse, turning to deep green by summer and to sunset gold in late fall. Cultivars include 'Pendula', a weeping cultivar; 'Fastigiata', a narrow and upright variety; and 'Pyramidalis'.
Fissured and scaly bark bark is tinted rust-brown in winter. Purplish red winter shoots are covered in a waxy bloom. Gray-green or bluish green leaves grow to 1.5 inches long.
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These vibrant bloomers give even the showiest annuals and perennials a run for their money
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Two experts pick their favorites based on color, shape
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Q&A Moving houseplants outdoors for the summer
by Tim Pollak
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