A Gardening Journal

The Best Season Ever: Spindle Tree in Bloom

With so many trees in bloom in the Spring, those that flower in Summer are all the more noticeable. These are the flowers of a rare species of spindle tree, Euonymus carnosus that began flowering the second week of June. Now it's the third week in August, and flowers are still present.

 

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Below, a wider view of this Euonymus carnosus in mid-July. A month after flowering had begun in June, it was still peak performance—and, as in the picture above, flowers are still present in mid-August  How many other hardy trees can mount a floral performance in Summer, let alone for two months?

 

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And how 'bout these leaves? They are so glossy they seem to have been waxed, and so durable they escape the jaws of hungry browsers. Add sensational Fall color, and you have an ornamental that should be in every garden where it's hardy.

 

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Here's a close-up of the floral display back in early June.

 

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And closer still.

 

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Below, a sprig in close-up. Small cymes of flowers emerge from the bases of leaves on the portions of stems produced the previous season. Flower-free foliage at the tip of this stem has been forming just since May. Next Spring, that tip portion of this stem will produce both leaves and flowers—and, at its tip, additional leafy stem to continue the cycle the following year.

 

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Now to those bizarre "fleshy" flowers. Four thick petals open to expose a center that is hard and, seemingly, featureless; like the flowers of ivy, those of Euonymus carnosus forgo the usual obvious flaunting of pistils and stamens. They are solid and, to the touch, seem just as the species name of carnosus would literally have it: fleshy. Carnosus, carnivore, carnal: Flesh is at the core of all of them.

 

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Together, this tree's Spring-into-Summer flowers plus Spring-Summer-and-Fall foliage create an elegant, nuanced show that lasts month after month. 

 

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Here's how to grow Euonymus carnosus—plus a look at its sensational deep-purple Fall foliage.

 
 
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