Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Redbud

The leaves of the mighty Oak have not yet begun to bud and so we may perhaps have another frost or freeze. Folklore foretells that once the leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear we will have no more freezes… however this week it certainly feels like full-blown spring.

The fabulous Redbud, the state tree of Oklahoma, has begun to bloom and her lovely lavender and fuchsia flowers fill the woods with a haze of delicate color. These precious flowers dance along bare branches producing a sweet flower nectar that bees adore. And although the National Arbor Day Foundation has named the Oak as our nations most popular tree, the Redbud was included as a favorite as well.

The Redbud is an ancient species common in North America, Europe, Japan, and Asia where it can grow as tall as 40 feet. It is also called the Judas tree because of the belief that Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ, hanged himself on a Redbud tree. In our own history, writings indicate early settlers added the blossoms to their meals as a garnish, folk healers used the bark to treat common maladies, while Native Americans chose the wood for their bows.

A hardy tree, the requirements for growth are unfussy and the Redbud does not object to overgrowth shade of other trees. They naturalize quite well throughout any wooded area and they are also a spectacular specimen tree often used in landscaping for homes and parks. The Redbud has a relatively long life expectancy, is not prone to disease, and will grow twenty to thirty feet.

Growth habits include multiple branches rather than a single trunk, and the light colored bark peels and curls in a most charming manner. The leaves are singular in color and form as well, arriving tiny and almost olive in color, only to change into deep green hearts as spring deepens… the heart shape of the leaves is unique only to the Redbud. Outside the tree-bound flowers may last up to three weeks or they may cut to be included in an arrangement with tulips, which are also in bloom.

Summer annuals such as marigolds, petunias, and even tomatoes could be started from seed on a sunny windowsill now and they will be ready for the garden at the perfect time. Since the Oak has predicted erratic weather, hot loving annuals will not fare well outside so do not plant them for a bit. Enjoy the week!