“The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”
Harriet Ann Jacobs
Every spring, just as the lilacs in my gardens fade away, my beloved fringe tree comes to life. It is my most eagerly anticipated garden show. The fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus, from the Greek chion and anthus meaning “snow flower”, is a native tree and does well in zones 3 to 9. It grows slowly from 12-20 feet high and equally wide. Because it has a beautiful curvilear form with branches that appear to spread and curl similarly to a willow, it should be planted as a specimen tree with plenty of space for it to stretch out its limbs.
Come May, its green buds open up to the most magnificent feathery fringes of white flowers that are suspended beneath the branches.
And the fragrance! Intoxicating! I have been known to throw impromptu gatherings when the fringe tree is blooming. I find the fragrance is more pronounced at night and with its white flowers, this is the perfect ornamental tree for a garden space you enjoy in the evening. If you are lucky to have a breeze blowing when the fringe tree is at peak blooming, the swaying of its fleecy clusters of flowers is just mesmerizing. This beauty requires little maintenance once established. It should be planted in well-drained soil in a sunny location but it can tolerate part shade. I have never pruned my 17 year old tree other than occasionally cutting a sucker-type of new growth near the soil. In the fall, its leaves turn a soft golden color. It is truly a remarkable addition to any garden space. Photos do not do it justice. I hope you can find a fringe tree blooming near you and stop and smell its jasmine-like perfume!