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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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These trees offer blooms, color into autumn

Tim Kohlhauff Special to the Voice

The heat of summer is here, and you are no doubt expecting to read about the importance of adequate watering or the benefits of drought-tolerant plantings. Those subjects are both important, but today I’m craving some beauty. Sure our annuals are blooming to beat the band, but our trees have all finished for the year … or have they? I’d like to introduce you to a pair of trees that bloom even in the heat of summer and early fall. Both are underused in our area so you may not have heard of them: the Goldenrain tree and the Japanese Stewartia.

Stewartia pseudocamelia or Japanese Stewartia is a small to medium sized tree. It grows 20-30 feet tall in our area, and has single white rose-shaped flowers in July and August. The show continues in the fall, with leaves turning yellow, orange, red or purple; sometimes all four on the same tree. After the leaves have fallen, the flaking bark provides winter interest with soft colors of gray, orange-brown and even hues of red. Stewartia has almost no insect or disease problems, so you’re probably asking, is this the perfect tree?

Well, maybe almost perfect. In our area Stewartia need to be sheltered from the worst of the summer sun and winter cold, so plant them in partial shade and out of the wind. They prefer acid soil, which is in short supply around here. Buy younger trees to reduce the chances of transplant shock. They may be a little fussy, but Japanese Stewartia will reward you with years of enjoyment. Don’t plant one unless you want traffic to slow as it passes your yard.

The Goldenrain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, is less fussy, but still offers your landscape an uncommon beauty. They grow fairly quickly, averaging about a foot per year, until they reach 30 to 40 feet tall and wide. Their new leaves open purple before becoming green for the summer and turning bronze or yellow in the fall. They bloom in July with clusters of yellow flowers up to 15 inches tall. Unlike the hanging flowers of the Golden Chain tree, these blooms stand up as if they are waving at passers-by.

After the flowers fade, they are replaced with large green seed capsules which turn yellow and then brown. These seed pods last into fall, and attract a lot of interest on their own.

Goldenrain trees tolerate some drought, and adapt to almost any soil type. They have few pest or disease problems, although some are troubled with a fungus which causes twig dieback.

Extreme cold can harm them; they are not reliably hardy anyplace colder than Zone 5.

This week in the garden

•After you’ve chosen the perfect location for one of these trees in your yard, there is still plenty of work to do in the garden. At the top of the list of course, is water, water, water. Deep-irrigate your trees and shrubs to help them combat the heat and get ready for fall.

•Except for annuals, you don’t need to fertilize your ornamental plants anymore this year. Doing so could cause them to grow when they should be getting ready to go dormant. Lawns are traditionally fertilized one more time, in September; be sure to use a slow release formula.

•Stay alert for insects and disease, as heat stressed plants are more vulnerable to attack. Treat problems when they are small, and they are less likely to come back next year.

•Continue to harvest vegetables, and dead-head annuals, to keep the plants productive. Now is a good time to see where you might squeeze in some fall bulbs; there is a wide variety to choose from, why not try something a little different this year?

•Most important of all, take some time to appreciate what is beautiful in your landscape. Take a walk and study some neighboring gardens, better yet, talk to your neighbors, and find out about their successes and failures. They might have the perfect idea for your place.

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