White is my favourite colour. White is the colour of purity. Unblemished, clean and without fault. It is the colour of snow, cotton, bedsheets, diapers and wedding dresses.
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White is the colour of flowering trees in May. After a lengthy winter with dark skies, dirty roadsides and long nights, white-flowering trees are an enchanting delight.
The first white flowering trees to bloom are star magnolias. Their magnificent star-shaped daisy-like blooms can last for several weeks if spring remains cool but can disappear quickly if early spring temperatures are warm.
Magnolias are hardly tree-like because they do not have a single trunk. Yet, with age, they can grow to 25 feet, with nearly equal width. Other popular magnolia varieties include saucer magnolia with pink cup-shaped blooms, and Susan with pink-purple blooms.
Juneberry (Amelanchier canadensis) is a native Canadian shrub or small tree that opens with pure white blooms, followed by green leaves, dark fruit and bold fall colour. Juneberry is an understory tree, meaning it grows at the edge of a forest. Its fruit is favoured by all kinds of birds, including cedar waxwings.
Experts in binomial nomenclature are bewildered with Amelenchier canadensis trees because Juneberry trees go by many common names. They include shadblow, serviceberry, Saskatoon berry, chuckleberry and blueberry tree. All are variations of a theme with interesting roots.
Fruit-bearing trees are mostly white, covering the tree with a cloud of bloom. Most flowers are short lived but serve a significant role in pollination and fruit production. Not all fruit tree flowers form fruit, but a tree that doesn’t bloom will not produce any fruit. Fruit tree growers always breathe a sigh of relief after their peach tree flowers drop, an indication that frost did not damage their early flowering fruit.
The most widely planted white-flowering trees are ornamental Bradford pears. These popular trees have long lasting pure white fragrant blooms. The tree grows to a medium height of 35 feet with a spread of 20 feet, making it suitable for small city lots and city boulevards. The tree has glossy green leaves that turn bronze coloured in fall.
Several varieties of flowering pear exist, with the most popular being chanticleer (Pyrus calleryanna). For a narrower upright grower, look for capital flowering pear.
Chokecherry trees, along with the many related Prunus tree species, all have attractive white flowers in May, followed by small green leaves through spring, summer and into fall. Most have an informal shrub-like shape when young, maturing to small trees with age. Prunus trees can be found in the forest everywhere, particularly along the edge where more light is available.
Horse chestnut trees are known for their large white cone-shaped flowers that bloom at the end of spring, after their leaves have appeared. Two weeks later, the native northern catalpa produces similar showy white blooms. For a small, tidy, summer flowering tree, consider ivory silk lilac tree with long lasting white flowers.