When I first read about Davidia trees, I was immediately fascinated. Imagine finding something that satisfied both my love of flowering trees and my love of unusual plants! It seemed the perfect choice for the long shade border I was creating across my backyard.
So, when I found a Davidia involucrata at an end-of-season sale at Weston Nurseries, I immediately bought it. It was small, only about five feet tall, but I had high hopes. I planted it, nurtured it and awaited the grand show.
After five years had passed with not a flower in sight, I did some homework. I found that not only was it border-line hardy in my area, but it typically did not bloom for twelve years after planting. It was a good grower and created nice shade; its leaves were attractive and it had lovely bark; I consoled myself as I waited for Year Twelve.
Year Twelve came and went. Finally, after thirteen years, I was thrilled when one branch produced some of the most intriguing flowers I had ever seen: fuzzy brown spheres with two white bracts, the larger one nearly seven inches long! This continued for the next couple of years: a branch here and there with a smattering of flowers. But this year, nearly the entire tree is blooming. As the white bracts of each flower flutter in the breeze, I can see why its common names are Handkerchief Tree and Dove-tree. It is just as fascinating as I had imagined.
And, yes, it was worth the wait.
By Joan Butler