Spring trees, like their bulb companions, awaken the dormant gardener in just about everyone. We've assembled a list of some, easily found in local nurseries at reasonable costs and blooming reliably year after year. Though some of these are past their bloom time, you can still plant them now. Keep all new trees watered over the summer and into the winter if rains are spotty again next year.
Don't think you have to buy a large plant to make a difference in your landscape. "Larger is not necessarily better because larger plants suffer more transplant shock," says Karen Marshall, owner of Naturescape Designs. In her experience very large plants languish and "pout" for a longer time. She suggests planting conifers no more than seven or eight feet tall and deciduous trees with calipers (trunks) not larger than three inches in diameter.
Dig the hole twice as wide and one and a half times as deep as the plant root ball. Fill in the bottom of the hole and around sides of the plant with a mixture of two-thirds native soil and one-third organic amendments (or half and half in east Medford's gray "gumbo clay" soil), advises Marshall.
Trees and shrubs should be planted at ground level with the crown just slightly higher. Water well and allow water to soak into the soil. Tamp gently to remove air pockets, and make sure your plant doesn't settle in below ground level. A layer of mulch on top, but away from the trunk, will help moderate temperatures and keep soil from compacting.
If you live in an area exposed to strong winds, it's a good idea to stake your newly planted trees, especially conifers that maintain their leaf mass, for a year or two until they get established.
This family of sterile fruit trees produces prodigious blooms. Flowering plum blooms earliest and these small, densely branched trees are vivid pink lollipops on our gray days. Sporting saturated pink-purple blooms that tolerate spring snows, their leaves are often a deep maroon. The ornamental varieties usually don't bear fruit, so there's no mess to clean up. Flowering cherries are available in a host of varieties, and produce clusters of almond-scented pink or white double flowers before leafing out. They prefer full sun and well drained soil, reaching 15 to 25 feet in height. These trees cannot stand having wet "feet," so they don't make good lawn trees.
White and pink blooms can crowd the branches of the hawthorn, and this variety is great for bird-lovers. The small fruit grows as densely as its flowers, and birds will feast on it all winter. Watch out, the left-overs will litter your garden, so don't plant this unless you're willing to clean up. The mountain ash is another berry-bearing tree, and produces less fruit, but no less desirable for birds. They usually pick this one clean.
A number of redbud varieties are available, including the popular "Forest Pansy" with attractive leaves, and round, bicolored flowers. Easy to grow, but hard to find, the umbrella shaped 'Lavender Twist' redbud tree sports contorted stems and grows into an arching crown for an umbrella-like "weeping" appearance. Native redbuds grow along the forest perimeter, so prefer early sun and afternoon shade and will grow to 6 to 10 feet in moist, well-drained soil.
One of the best loved trees, dogwoods (Cornus florida) have been popular American landscape trees for decades, and their showy white and pink bracts — which we consider the bloom — are only part of the reason. Good autumn leaf color, and scarlet fruit that birds love, add to the pleasure. These grow to 20 feet (more if they like the spot), need some shade, and are susceptible to anthracnose. An Asian native, Cornus kousa, is more disease resistant, and blooms later with long lasting white bracts with pointed tips.