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Ornamental Trees of The Month

September 2015 Tree of the Month - Asiatic Tree lilacs - Syringa reticulata and  pekinensis
Syringa reticulata, known as Japanese tree lilac, is larger than our native shrub lilacs and it blooms a little later. It produces large clusters of small creamy-white, fragrant flowers. This tree is an excellent street-side planting for full sun or partial shade locations. It is hardy to Zone 3 and can handle a restricted root zone. The tree stays small, with a mature height of 20-to-30 feet and a crown spread of 15-to-25-feet wide. This plant also has a cultivated variety that is known as Syringa reticulata 'ivory silk' that is slightly more compact and has showier flowers at an earlier age.
Syringa pekinensis, known as Peking lilac, is both hardy and beautiful, with attractive, exfoliating, amber-colored bark and rounded growth form. It is a dependable urban tree and a great choice for a parking lot, boulevard and parkway plantings. There are two popular cultivars, CHINA SNOW™ being larger of the two and BEIJING GOLD™ having the smaller height and crown spread.
The Asiatic lilac trees are an option for amateur urban re-foresters because they are pollution- and cold-tolerant small trees with a multiseason interest.  
Article by Andrew Bachman, CT MA, RI, and ISA certified/licensed arborist, owner of Trout Brook Landscaping
Franklinia alatamaha, known as the Franklin Tree or the Lost Camellia, is a member of the Tea family. It was discovered by father and son botanists William and John Bartram in 1765 along a few acres of the Altamaha River in Georgia. The tree was named after William’s friend Benjamin Franklin and the river near where it was found. Bartram collected several plants and seeds for his garden. When the popularity of the Franklin Tree in the English gardens hit its peak, the tree was virtually hunted out of existence and has not been found in the wild since 1790. This makes the Franklin Tree one of the rarest trees in the world, and the current nursery propagated Franklin trees are thought to be the descendants of Bartram’s original collection. Efforts are being madeto re-introduce the tree into the same area where it was originally found.
Grown for its fragrant and showy flowers, which are perfect white five-petaled with a yellow center it blooms from July to September. The leaves are alternate, simple and up to 6” long with a dark green color that turns into orange and red in the fall. The bark is also an attractive feature with its fluted vertical fissures and smooth gray bark. This is a small growing specimen tree, only growing up to 20 feet, and is of the highest quality. Hardy to Zones 5-8, Franklinia would make an excellent planting for any Connecticut garden.

Article by Richard Caldwell, ISA arborist, 20-year tree industry veteran climber, tree aficionado
JULY 2015 Tree of the Month - American Hornbeam
Carpinus caroliniana Walter, or the American Hornbeam, is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated native tree species. This is an absolutely beautiful tree with delicate-looking light green foliage and a strong, muscular gray bark that is similar to the Beech family, but, in fact, is in the Birch family. It is commonly known as Ironwood, as well as Blue Beech, Water Beech and Musclewood. The name Ironwood is also, and more aptly used for, the American Hophornbeam or Ostrya virginiana (also in the Birch family), as well as the Persian Ironwood or Parrotia persica, which is more related to Witch Hazel (Hamamelidaceae) than the Hornbeam.
Many species of trees around the world with an extremely dense hardwood, including one of my personal favorites, Lignum vitae (a South American hardwood) are also known as Ironwood. This is exactly why Carl Linnaeus invented the scientific Latin binomial system, to avoid the confusion associated with the common names of each tree species. The name Walter is the discoverer of the tree, Thomas Walter, an early American Botanist who is most famous for his book ‘Flora Caroliniana’ (1788).
A slow-growing tree that can grow to 30 feet or more in the northeast and maybe upwards of 70 feet with enough time, nobody knows. Apparently, in southern Mexico and Central America, this tree grows much larger due to a more favorable tropical wet climate. But, alas, we live in the Northeast, and as the trees do, we have to live with the same harsh winter season. The thin simple leaf is a light-to-medium green color with an alternate growth pattern. The leaves have a serrated, ovate-oblong, acuminate, rounded or even heart-shaped form that is very birch like. The bark is a recognizable smooth gray with a sinewy and muscular growth form that reminds some of a beech. Even with an extremely tough and hardwood, the younger bark itself is somewhat susceptible to mechanical damage, so climbers tread lightly. Propagation from seed collected prior to fall chill and transplanting with a shallow but wide root ball are recommended.
The American Hornbeam is truly a forest understory tree that thrives in exactly that environment, part sun to almost full shade. It seems to do best in moist, slightly acidic and humus-rich forest conditions and especially near streams and river banks. The tree seems to also grow just as well if not better in moist soil in sunny locations, and this contributes to a more vibrant fall foliage color of fiery orange-red. There cultivars and related species that can be found, some with upright fastigiate growth to weeping forms and ones with brilliant red fall color (and good luck finding those). The varieties of the genus Carpinus grows throughout the world and is just as valued as any ornamental yard specimen tree.
Article by:  Richard Caldwell, ISA arborist,  20-year tree industry veteran climber, West Hartford tree care aficionado
June 2015 - Corkscrew Willow
Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’, commonly known as the Corkscrew Willow, Contorted Willow, Curly Willow, Pekin Willow, Hankow Willow and the Dragon’s Claw Willow. In the family Salicaceae, which includes all deciduous willows, poplars and even the Quaking Aspen, the Corkscrew Willow is one of the more attractive and ornamental varieties in the family. Named after the Japanese botanist Sadahisa Matsudo, who wrote about the trees in China more than 100 years ago. I have a particular fondness for this tree because of the curly and contorted branch growth that resembles Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’), which is a curly Hazelnut variety. Some classify this tree as Salix contorta; I believe it is the same tree as the S. matsudana ‘Tortuosa’. The branches, with their twisting habit, are prized for craft projects and I have made beautiful golden, light and strong walking sticks from the Dragon’s Claw Willow.
The leaves are a light green with a gray-green underside, and then turn a slightly darker green in summer and yellow fall foliage. It is a linear-lanceolate simple leaf, which is alternate along the branch and curl just as much as the branch growth. The branches obviously twist and contort with an upright and outward growth. Very light green to yellow bark color on younger branches, the larger branch and trunk bark is a common willow look, not overly attractive or noteworthy. Catkins are the flower of choice for the willows, appearing in spring the tree form itself at maturity is usually an oval to rounded crown that can reach upwards of 40 feet or more eventually.
Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’ is hardy to the Connecticut region (6) and can grow in zones 4 to 8. It prefers cool moist soil environment in temperate climates, however, is more drought tolerant than most Willows. Easily propagated from cuttings, as are all in the Salicaceae family. This is due to the natural abundance of rooting hormone in this species, which are used commercially for rooting hormone products. Salicylic acid is another commercial product derived from the Willow family; this is otherwise known as aspirin. So the next time you have a headache and you see a Willow tree, chew on a tender leaf stem.
Article by Richard Caldwell, 19-year tree industry veteran, ISA arborist, pruning expert and garden designer
MAY 2015 - Paperbark Maple
Acer griseum, or commonly known as Paperbark Maple, is a deciduous specimen tree of great beauty and aesthetic value. Most notable for its exfoliating red bark, it also has unique fall foliage, which can vary slightly tree to tree. Its upright oval to round growth habit is consistent with most Maple trees, however, this species of Maple is slower growing and shorter than most of the genus Acer. Only reaching approximately 20 to 30’ and may grow up to 50’ after many years. The oldest specimen in the United States is said to be over 100 years old, far older Paperbark Maples can be found in other parts of the world. It’s native to central China, grown in Europe and was introduced to the United States in 1901. The Paperbark Maple hardiness zone extends from Zones 5 to 7 for good growth, but will survive in Zones 4 and 8. Connecticut falls into roughly Zone 6, moreover, this is the perfect latitude for the Paperbark.
The attractive bark is reddish bronze to cinnamon brown, with the older bark exfoliating paper thin sheets exposing smooth satin textured red/ bronze. It’s as though a Maple tree was crossed with Himalayan Paper Birch and Japanese Cherry trees. The leaves are maple-like, but are known as trifoliate, which means the leaf is separated into three leaflets as can be in the Box Elder (Acer negundo). The leaf color usually is a dark bluish green with a silvery gray underside (this is where the Latin name for gray comes in, griseus), this turns to bronze, russet red, vibrant red, and even to red-orange with pink tones depending on the individual tree and climate. The Paperbark Maple does not produce showy flowers, and the maple samara (helicopter) seed pod is usually devoid of seed. This makes propagation from seed problematic at best. Cuttings and cloning are used as well, but with equal difficulty.
The Paperbark Maple is not susceptible to any serious pest or disease problems, however, certain cultural practices should be observed. It should be planted in a moist slightly acidic and well-drained soil, and watered regularly due to its lack of drought tolerance. Full sun to part shade, planted in groves, forest borders or singularly in a backyard are all good for this spectacular specimen tree.   
Article written by Rick Caldwell, a 20-year tree industry veteran, ISA arborist, and Trout Brook's pruning expert 
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