Plant of the Month: July 2011

This month’s Plant of the Month is not usually celebrated in July as it is well known for the beauty of its flowers in Spring. However, every other visitor to the Towers this month has asked me about the stunning tree in the car park and so without further ado I bring you…

Cercis siliquastrum

The Judas Tree is an elegantly spreading small tree, often multi-stemmed like this one. The gorgeous magenta flowers in Spring grow straight from the wood of the branches and are followed by the rich red seed pods which give a second period of splendour in the height of summer. The fact it also has a good buttery yellow autumn colour and with its elegant form even looks good standing naked in the depths of winter make it a fantastic tree all year round. Our specimen is close to fully grown as they reach 30ft/10m tall and so make a good smallish tree, although their spreading nature does mean they dominate their allotted space.

The glaucous heart-shaped leaves are attractive in their own right too, even without the glorious pods dangling beneath:

Although young trees and unripened wood can suffer from frost damage they are fully hardy and both this Cercis siliquastrum and the Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ we have elsewhere in the garden came through the last winter (which was unusually hard) unscathed. They like a moist but well drained and fertile spot, seeming to be perfectly happy on our Essex clay.

The shade it produces is deep enough that the grass grows weakly beneath it. The perfect spot for a shade bed perhaps?

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14 responses to “Plant of the Month: July 2011

  1. Dang it I wish i had a larger garden :S It’s beautiful….

  2. Stunning! I like the way the branches start so low down. I wonder if its the nature of the tree to grow like that or if it was trained.

  3. Fully hardy?……Would a young specimen survive my late spring frosts (May 5th, typically), I wonder? Certainly, I don’t see many of them round here. But you have convinced me to give it a try, if I can find a suitable northern supplier.

  4. It looks wonderful! Thank you for the pictures and the description.

  5. That is a truly beautiful tree! The red really stands out among the foliage…lovely!

  6. Spotted a much smaller one of these in our local London square in Spring when the flowers were clothing the bare bark. The addition of scarlet seedheads makes this a double whammy. Also good that it provides light enough shade to share its spot with other plants. Thanks for hightlighting this one

  7. I’m in southern California and I believe 2 of these trees have sprouted voluntarily in my back yard. One is about 2 feet and the other a little smaller but they have the super heart shape and the bright red stems. Do you know if they transplant well? I do not particularly want them in that area but they look like a lovely tree to keep.

    • I’m sorry it’s taken me a while to reply – I have moved a Cercis in the past. The top growth died back but I spotted some buds at the base of the trunk, cut it back and it sprouted and is now doing fine. I think you’re definitely taking a risk – take as much soil as possible with it to avoid damaging the roots, water and feed it well and don’t do it in hot/dry weather (leave it to Autumn or next Spring) and you’ve got as good a chance as possible. If you can spend a year or two on this it might be worth root pruning the tree with a spade this autumn and moving it next year. I only did it because the tree was in the way of a building so it had no chance at all if I didn’t at least try. Good luck!

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