Fireworks in the spring? Yep. If you live in Southern California, you needn't wait for July for some sizzling, eye-popping explosions of color. In my garden the apricot, Santa Rosa plum, apples, peaches, nectarines, and pluots (an apricot-plum hybrid) flaunt their ruffled skirts of pink and white against a background of sky- blue Ceanothus (wild lilac) and rosemary.
Nearby the Abutilon's firecracker red- and-yellow flowers lure hummingbirds in for nectar. The fruit-laden orange, lime, kumquat and lemon trees are starred with hundreds of waxy-white blooms that shine against the dark-citrus foliage. Along an adobe wall a trio of redbuds sport knobby buttons of blossoms that glow rosy pink.
Outside the kitchen door another sweet little native redbud reigns over my potager. This small tree, which can grow to about 15 feet tall (though I keep it nipped into a manageable size), is tucked into a large terra-cotta container and surrounded by violas, Italian parsley and cilantro. I swore that I would plant only edibles in the potager, so how does a redbud fit in? Its hot-pink flowers are not only gorgeous but also delectable when pickled, added to salads or desserts or stir-fried.
Though redbuds are probably most noticeable in their spring fireworks finery, they are quiet standouts during other seasons too. In summer they are graced with smooth, heart-shape leaves, which I press and use for place cards. In autumn the leaves turn a soft buttery-yellow, and through the winter the tracery of gray- and mahogany-tinged branches take center stage. Redbuds are undemanding, underutilized and, during most of the year, just plain old overlooked. Now that you're acquainted, how about adopting one, or two, or...?
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