Unusual Shade Trees

Manglietia insignis (syn. Magnolia insignis) – The Red Lotus Tree is native to southeast Asia and is closely related to Magnolia. It blooms in early summer with erect reddish-pink buds (composed of 9 petals) that open to pale pink and white. These are borne over narrow olive green foliage that is reliably evergreen. Average mature size is 20-35′ high and 15-25′ wide. Zone 7.

Koelreuteria paniculata – Golden Rain Tree has emerging leaves that are pink, mature to green, shifting to yellow in autumn. This native of China and Korea features leaflets that are highly serrated or scalloped. Small yellow flowers borne in large wedge-shaped panicles are prominent from mid to late summer – these are followed by inflated reddish-pink seedpods. Height 30′. Zone 6.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Red Fox’ (syn. ‘Rotfuchs’) – This is a dwarf columnar form of Katsura Tree with heart-shaped leaves that emerge a distinct dark reddish-purple. These mature to greenish-purple in summer, shifting to gold, pink and orange tones in the fall. It also emits the pleasant fragrance of burnt sugar or caramel at this time. ‘Red Fox’ matures at 20′ tall. Zone 5 hardy.

Catalpa bignoniodes ‘Aurea’ – The Golden Indian Bean Tree is more compact and slower-growing than the species, averaging 15-18′ in 10 years and maturing at around 30′ high. The large golden-yellow leaves emerge with a bronze tinge and frilly exotic looking white flowers (accented with purple and orange spots) are borne July to August – bean-like seedpods follow. Zone 6 hardy.

Aralia elata ‘Variegata’ (syn. ‘Albomarginata’) – Variegated Japanese Aralia may look quite tropical, but it is hardy down to zone 4. The 3′ long compound leaves feature green leaflets generously edged in creamy-white. This Award of Garden Merit winner bears white terminal blooms in late summer followed by purplish-black berries favoured by birds. Height 15 to 30′.

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