American Yellowwood: The Garden’s Crowning, Golden, October Glory

October 26th, 2018 § 0 comments

Cladrastis kentukea: Our Glorious, American Yellowwood Tree

I’ve always been baffled by the rarity of American Yellowwood trees in New England gardens. With a glorious canopy of fragrant, cascading white blossoms in May/June, a rounded, full crown of disease-free leaves throughout the summer season and clear, golden fall foliage in late autumn, this tree is a garden designer’s dream. Hardy in USDA zone 4-8, with a mid-size stature of 30-50′, and full, rounded 40-50+’ crown, Cladrastis kentukea has become one of my favorite landscape trees.

Given full sun and average moisture, Cladrastis kentukea thrives in New England’s cool climate. There is one reputed flaw: American Yellowwood branches are fragile and can be vulnerable to ice damage; but that certainly hasn’t stopped designers and home gardeners from planting Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) or Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum). My own Cladrastis kentukea tree has settled in to its adopted Vermont home, gracing the garden for approximately 10 years now. Protected from prevailing winds by a dense landscape filled with other plantings, my Yellowwood tree has weathered a number of early and late season ice storms, as well as heavy, annual snowfall, with no trace of damage. She did take a number of years to bloom, but now rewards my wait with a lush, fragrant canopy in early June, followed by dangling, decorative seed pods in autumn.

A Garden Designer’s Dream Tree: Native North American Beauty with Fragrant Spring Blossoms and Late Autumn Foliage in Clear, Brilliant Yellow

Because of Yellowwood’s deep-rooting habit, she plays nicely in mixed borders with other plants. Her shifting, seasonal hues are a special joy to work with from spring through late fall. I like to pair this beauty with soft blue or gold bulbs in spring, followed by perennials and woody plants with blue-violet flowers and golden-orange to scarlet autumn foliage. These colors sing out together against a bluebird sky and glow like lanterns in late October fog. An unusual, beautiful addition to the landscape, Cladrastis kentukea is a tree worth seeking out or requesting at garden centers; especially those specializing in native, ornamental plants.

Glorious, Fragrant White Blossoms with Golden Centers Cascade from the Branches in June 

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