Slowing growing as tall as 20 feet, the White Fringetree makes a great accent, even in small gardens.
The native tree puts on a great show in late spring.
By Tom Baughn Extension Master Gardener
“In May . . . they are as pretty as a spring bride!” say Winny Buursink, who co-leads the Extension Master Gardener volunteers that maintain three Fringetrees at the Rady Park Arboretum in Warrenton.
The White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) is a smaller tree that slowly reaches 12 to 20 feet tall, with a graceful growth pattern that makes it an excellent accent in even small gardens. It does best in soil that is somewhat moist; so it can be an excellent choice near a stream or pond. An area at the bottom of a slope, where you may have noticed ferns – that also like moist, deep, fertile soil — also would be a good site. Fringetrees prefer and flower best in full sun and probably will not flower in full shade.
Fall is the best time to plant a tree and, depending on the size of the tree chosen for the garden, one may have to wait a few years for it to put on its spectacular fragrant and floriferous show in late spring. The male tree has larger flowers, perhaps to better attract pollinators to load up on pollen before they visit the female tree. Both male and female trees are needed to feed the birds their favorite dark blue berries in the fall.
Even without the flowers, their somewhat larger than average leaf provides a good mix of texture, when planted near finer-leafed woody plants like dwarf varieties of Japanese maple, or another native like the Woodland phlox. The tree’s open habit also gives it a nice silhouette, adding interest to the winter landscape. The White Fringetree rarely requires pruning. No diseases or insects pose serious problems.