Penny O’Sullivan Looks at What’s Blooming in June


 Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)

photography by Penny O'Sullivan

If I had to pick my favorite flowering tree—oh, please don’t make me do that—I’d choose Japanese stewartia, Stewartia pseudocamellia. This relatively small tree, growing 30-40 feet high and 15-20 feet wide at maturity, is a treat every season of the year. In spring, when it leafs out, the foliage is bright, light green. In early summer, the flower buds are big, fat, and rounded like greenish white pearls. Three-inch blooms come soon afterwards and continue until August, a time when few other trees are flowering. What lovely flowers they are, with five pure white petals a tad ruffled at the outer edges, set against deep green leaves! In the center is a large boss of golden anthers, similar to those of a single camellia flower. Fall is all about the foliage, which turns purple, orange, and shining red and lasts for weeks. Even winter cannot dull the beauty of this tree, which features colorful peeling bark resembling camouflage blotched with cinnamon, greenish gray, brown, and tan. How can you resist a plant that is easy for beginners to grow, alluring in its year-round charms, and perfectly hardy in USDA Zones 5-8? I can’t—I now have two!

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