Q: Lately you’ve written about what’s in bloom and when. Now I’m seeing trees that are so pretty. Their shape is sort of delicate looking, not stout or too big. The flowers on the one I have noticed most on my walks are a dark lavender color, but I think I’m seeing lots of them, and if they are the same kind of tree,they are lots of different shades of purple Do you know which tree type I’m seeing now? – J.W.K., Albuquerque
A: I am extremely confident that the trees you are noticing in bloom all over the metro now are redbuds. These guys are my absolute favorite blooming tree.
I do hope you’ve taken the time to get up close and personal with the bloomer on your walk and given the flowers a close inspection. The blooms are shaped a lot like the flowers you’ll find on pea plants. In fact, the redbud is in the Leguminosae family, hence the pea shaped blooms.
After the redbud finishes blooming, it will grow a seed pod that resembles a pea pod too. So, to me, there is no doubt they are in the pea family.
But it’s the varying colors that have gotten your attention. You’ll find redbuds that wear a light lavender-colored bloom, some that are an intense magenta-purple that to me seems to just shimmer, others that have a cute pinky-purple color and some that are a dark rosy-purple color.
The redbud – Cercis canadensis – seems to be the most available variety you’ll find, but the C. chinensis (Chinese redbud) or the C. occidentalis (Western redbud) are perfectly zoned to grow here, too.
What I really enjoy about redbuds is that they have something to offer all-year long. During the winter months, the color of the bark seems to be a grainy-looking, soft grey-black color and the silhouette offers a near “oriental delicateness” to their shape.
And don’t forget the seed pods that were put on during last year’s growth. They will hang on the tree for a long while during dormant season, giving off a soft rattling noise with a good breeze. Then, seemingly out of nowhere as the season changes to spring, the redbud explodes with color.
The flowers don’t cluster on branch tip ends; they pop right out of the wood along the branches. It’s amazing to look at. The flowers last usually about three weeks and then they fall, but are closely followed by heart-shaped leaves.
You can find choices wearing leaves that will be a purple-green, others that are dark green or others that look sort of blue-green.
When autumn comes, the redbud can sport leaves ranging from a cheery yellow-orange through rusty-purple colors. They are so pretty in the fall.
The leaves drop cleanly after first frost, leaving the what you called “delicate” look to the silhouette of the tree. The redbud is a valuable season-long, visually lovely tree.
They seem to settle in well here, being able to deal with all the area can throw at them. I won’t consider a redbud truly xeric, so you will need to water in order to keep one healthy. None that I’ve known are what I’d consider water pigs, just be sure that you don’t forget about them in the landscape.
So continue to enjoy noticing the redbuds in bloom all over our area now, soon the blooms will fade and they’ll be off to their next show. It’s still a great time to be planting a young tree or shrub, so if you’ve the space consider a redbud and enjoy its season long attractiveness. They are worth it.
Readers: Mark your calendars for the Spring Fair and Plant Sale hosted at the Albuquerque Garden Center from 1-6 p.m. Friday, April 22 and 8 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 23. The Garden Center is located at 10120 Lomas Blvd. NE. You could find treasures galore to really get you in the mood for this year’s growing season. While you’re there, be sure to pop into the Garden Center’s gift shop. Treasures abound in that space too. Have fun!
Happy Diggin’ In.
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to email@example.com.