May is the month that many of Cylburn’s trees and shrubs are in bloom with extravagant and fragrant flowers. It is the month of the Chinese Fringe Tree and the Cockspur Thorn, the Beautybush and the Mock Orange. Here are just a few of the beautiful specimens that you’ll see if you visit us in the next couple of weeks.
If you begin your walk in the Vollmer parking lot, you can pick two paths up to the Visitor Center. On one, the Philadelphus x ‘Snow Dwarf’ (Mock Orange) is covered in fragrant white blossoms. In the garden, this easy to grow shrub can be espaliered on a wall, trellis or fence. Along this path, it is simply planted in clusters. On the other path, Itea virginica ‘Little Henry’ (Virginia Sweetspire – pictured below) blooms under the draping limbs of a Cladrastis kentuckea (American Yellowwood).
In front of the Vollmer Center you will find some dogwoods still blooming. Fun fact: The white “petals” of the dogwood blossom are actually bracts, or specialized leaves. The flowers themselves are tightly clustered in the center. The variety at the Vollmer Center is called Cornus rutgersensis ‘Rutdan’ and has blushing pink white leaves fading quickly now in the heat. Also there the Calycanthus ‘Aphrodite’ (Sweetshrub – pictured below) is showing off deep red blossoms.
Continue up the path and consider following signs to the Greenhouse which will take you on a circuitous walk past a selection of Cylburn’s flowering shrubs. Along the way, you’ll see Cotinus coggygria (Smoke Tree) and the lovely Kolkwitzia amabilis (Beautybush). This graceful and old-fashioned shrub, which is rarely found in garden centers, has exuberant pink blossoms (see below). As difficult as it is to find it isn’t fussy at all loving sunny, dry conditions. Next to the Beautybush is the tall, upright shrub Deutzia with its profusion of white flowers. These particular shrubs are not fully unidentified (others on the opposite side of the path are) but are nonetheless very pretty! Spiraea nipponica (Snowmound) can also be found along this walk.
As you emerge from this walk look straight ahead at the impossible-to-miss Chionanthus retusus (Chinese Fringe Tree). The genus name comes from the Greek words “chion” meaning snow and “anthos” meaning flower. Indeed the trees in bloom look like they’re covered in snow. Fun Fact: This species of tree is dioecious — male and female flowers are on different plants (although there are a few exceptions). Cylburn has three Chinese Fringe Trees; the larger two are more floriferous and are females. Beyond them if you get a bit closer, you might also notice the red flowers of the Aesculus pavia (Red Buckeye).
To your right, on the West Lawn between the beeches and the large sugar maple, is the fantastic, thorny Crataegus crus-galli (Cockspur Thorn). Look but don’t get too close as the thorns are a full 4 to 5 inches of danger (see below)! The thorniness of Hawthorns led to the development of the ‘Winter King’ cultivar (Cylburn has a grove of five by the Vollmer parking lot) but this Cockspur is truly fascinating, like a tree from a medieval fairy tale. Our thorny beauty was pruned by Matt Mitcheltree and his team at North Hill Tree Experts in spring 2016. We are grateful to them not only for their contribution of this service to Cylburn, but for their bravery in taking it on.
If you choose to continue to tour the Mansion Gardens with their profusion of poppies, allium, peonies and innumerable other flowers, you’ll no doubt notice the Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Mindia’ Coppertina (Ninebark). Its unique “coppery” color is a standout wherever it is planted and its limbs drape with beautiful blossoms (see below). Fun fact: This native plant is fantastic now but also interesting in the winter, getting the name “ninebark” from the peeling bark on its mature branches that reveals an array of colors.
We hope you’ll come see these fine trees and shrubs for yourself. There is an array of flowers as well — the material of another blog post! If you can’t remember all of this information, stop to see our “What’s in Bloom” posters next to the Vollmer Center, across from the Rain Garden, and on the Mansion porch — Thanks to our partners at Lifebridge Health we are able to offer this information for visitors each month. You can always visit our website, Facebook and Instagram pages for more images and information about the arboretum. Hope to see you at Cylburn soon!
Here are a few more photos of trees and shrubs currently blooming.
Pictured above clockwise: How about a picnic by the Cockspur Thorn (just don’t get too close); Mock Orange; Red Buckeye; Dogwood; Snowmound Spiraea; Chinese Fringe Trees at their prime on Market Day; and Smoke Tree.