My $5.00 Redbud Trees

A landscape designer friend told me I should not be buying those $5.00 trees that line the sidewalk in front of the grocery store. “They won’t last,” she says.  That might be true in many cases but, bargain shopper that I am, I cannot resist.  I figure it’s a cheap gamble and I’m a planting fool. Sometimes it does not pay off but sometimes it actually does with gusto. Let me tell you about my wonderful $5.00 redbud that has become my oddity specimen tree.

I really love the Eastern redbud tree (Cercis canadensis). It seems to be drought resistant and has a high tolerance to salt. Before the leaves appear, thousands of small pink flowers burst open along the truck and branches. It can be planted in full sun or part shade and it thrives in a variety of soil types. If you check out the tiny blooms,  they look much like the pea bloom for it is in the same family. Following the James River along the Colonial Parkway to Williamsburg, the pink redbud blooms usually open about a week before the dogwood. I find myself planning additional trips to Williamsburg to be a witness to the redbuds blooming among the glorious dogwood trees. It is a sweet welcome to spring each year.

click to enlarge

Well, here is my oddity $5.00 redbud tree. It bloomed pink with one trunk for several years. When additional trunks began to emerge, I allowed them to develop to balance the tree and the tree began to bloom white AND pink. This baffled me for a couple of seasons. The lovely heart shaped leaves were identical. Did I have a grafted redbud that grew on a white redbud root?  No, I did not. I discovered as the tree aged that it is actually two trees from one pot.  The white redbud (Cercis canadensis f. alba) may have developed from a seed that sprouted in the same pot.  Examining the trunk, one can see that the pink redbud has a rougher trunk than the smoother white redbud trunk.

click to enlarge trunks

Mystery solved.  My landscaper friend just scratches her head and agrees that this $5.00 was very well-spent. This summer, I am taking cuttings from the white redbud and trying my hand at propagation.  In a few years, I may have a border of white redbuds!

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester