Those who know me know that I have a love for all things outdoors – and if you come out to the Garden Center, it won’t take you long to realize that I have a passion for anything that grows. Being in this industry for more than 15 years now, I have come across a lot of trees, but there are a few that are my absolute favorites that I’d like to share with you.*
The Kentucky coffeetree (or the ugly duckling as I refer to it when it’s young) is a medium sized tree that eventually grows into a beautiful swan. It provides dappled shade and can grow up to 50 feet tall and looks stunning in all seasons. The tree has unique foliage and an attractive bark in the winter. The coffeetree has a life expectancy of 100 years and can adapt to the elements, especially heat and drought. The foliage is dark green and turns bright yellow in the fall.
Fun fact: Kentucky coffeetrees have seedpods and are legume-like. Settlers used to make “coffee” with these seedpods in the absence of actual coffee beans. Don’t worry, there are a few cultivars that are “seedless” if seedpods aren’t your thing.
If you’re looking for an all seasonal tree, another one of my favorites is the Exclamation London planetree. The branching is a uniform, upright-pyramidal with a strong central leader. I love texture when it comes to trees and shrubs, and the London planetree is full of it. The attractive exfoliating bark and the large palmate lobed leaves make the tree a real standout! The plant is densely branched and shows great resistance to frost cracking and anthracnose. The tree can measure 50-60 feet tall and can have a 30-foot spread.
I love a tree that can grab everyone’s attention. The Northern catalpa does just that. The white, showy flowers that bloom in May or June with giant heart-shaped leaves make this tree like no other! The plant has the appearance of tiny waterfalls coming down from the canopy with its dangling bean-like seed pods. They can grow to be 40-60 feet tall and 20-40 feet wide. Mature ones have a twisting trunk which adds even more visual interest in all seasons.
Share some of your favorite trees with us in the comments below or on this Facebook post.
Photo: (left) Kentucky coffeetree and (right) Northern catalpa
*To prove that I’m a plant geek, I have to call attention to the fact that the above photo was taken while I was at the Independent Garden Center show in Chicago with fellow employee, Denise Smith. While walking around the Chicago Botanical Garden, I saw two of my favorite trees right next to each other and had to take a photo with them. Being a plant geek herself, Denise understood my urge for the photo-op and gladly snapped it as I posed.