A Chitalpa tree [Chitalpa tashkentensis] is a wonderful addition for anyone looking for a summer-flowering tree that is also drought-tolerant once established. This species is an intergeneric cross between our native Southern Catalpa [Catalpa bignonioides] and a Desert Willow [Chilopsis linearis]. This tree is a fast grower quickly reaching 20-35 feet in about 10 years. From mid-summer to the end of autumn it is covered in cone-shaped panicles of 20-40 trumpet-shaped flowers that are white with splashes of pink in the petals. It blooms best in full sun, and though it is drought-tolerant, it would prefer some consistent moisture. During winter, the pale ash-colored bark provides a beautiful winter backdrop. A sterile hybrid, this tree will not become invasive. And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you, the flowers are quite fragrant in full bloom.
Another showy flowering specimen less common around Memphis is Hartlage Wine allspice [Calycanthus raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’]. Carolina allspice is a favorite Southern native for many gardeners, but this species of Calycanthus is a cross of our native Calycanthus floridus and the Asian Calycanthus chinensis. This is an easy, low-maintenance deciduous shrub that prefers some dappled shade but tolerates full sun if watered consistently. It can reach a height and width of 8-10 feet with an upright, dense suckering habit that forms an isolated thicket. Don’t try to squeeze this into a tight garden. The glossy green, ovate foliage is beautiful, especially when it turns buttery yellow in the fall. From late April to early June it’s covered in fragrant, maroon flowers that fade to wine red. Prune in early summer once the plant finishes flowering to maintain a compact habit and promote more blooms next year. This is a great addition to a woodland garden or the edge of a tree line.
My personal favorite on this list is the Shoal Creek Vitex tree [Vitex agnus-castus ‘Shoal Creek’]. They are becoming more common, and when you see one in full bloom, you’ll understand why. They are from a Mediterranean climate so they prefer not to be waterlogged, so avoid low spots that have standing water. The crest of a hill or simply planted higher in a mound is the perfect locale, and they are quite drought-tolerant once established. It has slightly aromatic, compound foliage that is pale green with each leaf having 5-7 lance-shaped leaflets. From June to August it is covered in loose lilac panicles, sometimes up to a foot in length, that are highly attractive to bees, butterflies, and the occasional hummingbird. Light dead-heading will promote extended blooming, and cutting back the spindly branches in winter promotes a fuller shrub/tree with more blooms.
Don’t wait around and end up planting your trees and shrubs in late spring next year, where a few weeks of complacency in watering could result in a sub-par specimen or a lost specimen altogether. If any of these trees and shrubs appeal to your gardening imagination, then venture over to the Fall Plant Sale at the Memphis Botanic Garden October 8-9, 9 am-5 pm, and October 11-15, 10 am- 2 pm. You’ll find all these plants and much more! It’s the perfect time to purchase trees and shrubs as it’s just before that perfect autumn planting time, so don’t miss out on these quality landscape specimens.
Woody Shrubs and Trees for Fall Planting