The Chinese fringe tree offers a beautiful form; lustrous, semi-glossy leaves; white, fleecy flowers; and exfoliating bark.
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If you've got a small property, chances are you don't want a towering giant of a tree like a redwood, sycamore or Norway maple. "These days," says master gardener Paul James, "there's a definite trend towards smaller lots where smaller trees--varieties that don't grow more than 15 feet tall--fit much better.""Over the past 15 years," says James, "I've planted well over two dozen small trees including Japanese maples, dogwoods, various evergreens, a ginkgo, smoketree, and honey locust. And of all the small trees I've planted, probably one of my favorites is the Chinese fringe tree."
There are two common types of fringe trees. The native fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) is hardy to Zone 4 and usually averages 15 to 20 feet in the average landscape, although it can grow taller in the wild. Native to China, Japan and Korea, the Chinese fringe tree (C. retusus) was introduced to the U.S. about a century ago. It's hardy to Zone 5 and grows to only about 18 feet, but it too usually grows taller in the wild.
The Chinese fringe tree offers a beautiful form; lustrous, semi-glossy leaves; white, fleecy flowers; and exfoliating bark. The bark is especially ornamental in the winter after the trees lose their leaves (which turn a pleasing yellow in the fall).
And if all that weren't enough, the fringe tree is easy to grow. While it prefers full sun, it tolerates full shade too. It also prefers a well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH, but it can adapt to just about any soil type. In addition, pests and diseases rarely bother this tree.
"So when you add it all up," concludes James, "the fringe tree is a nearly perfect tree for smaller properties and for not so small ones as well."