Sunday, August 14, 2016

Franklinia--A Statesman in the Garden.

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A rare Franklinia (tree in foreground) stands in a garden amidst coneflowers, bee balm, day lillies, lavender and more.  It's a true statesman in this perennial garden bed.  A red maple (Acer rubrum) anchors the other end of the border and shines bright crimson in the fall, so as not to be totally outdone by the more diminutive yet regal Franklin Tree.  By the way, how do you like my china teacup flower, made by my very talented friend, Rick Wiedner?  As an artist and blacksmith, he certainly has an green-iron thumb!
The flirty and flouncy Franklinia Tree blossoms that had fallen to the ground during a fast moving rain storm dress up an old blue and white serving bowl.  I think Benjamin Franklin would be flattered as he was not only an inventor but also a true admirer of women.

High heat, hefty humidity and soaking raindrops, that come out of nowhere and then disappear just as swiftly, cannot keep a good tree from blooming its little heart out in these dog days of summer.  Have you ever heard of a Franklinia Tree (Franklinia alatamaha)?  Named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the Franklinia, or Franklin Tree, was discovered way back in the middle 1700's in the state we know as Georgia, along the Alatamaha River by botinists of the time, John Bartram and his son William. This heirloom and rare ornamental has been considered extinct in the wild since the middle 1800's and can only be found/cultivated by nurseries.  In fact, it is believed that all of the Franklin trees grown today came from the few specimens the Bartram's brought back from the Georgia territory and then propagated and grew in their own Philadelphia garden.

Fresh blooms framed by clusters of waxy green leaves at the end of each branch release a pleasant scent  that attracts not only pollinators but also people. The soft scent lends a bit of lightness to the heavily perfumed lavender plants on the property.
Blossoms appear like fireflies in the duskiness of a hot summer evening.
The Franklinia tree we have here at Blooming Hill was a gift to us from Peter's mother, Lynn, soon after we moved in 23 years ago and has been a source of beauty and pleasure since it took up residency in the garden just off the covered back porch.  It took a couple of years for the once small sapling to produce it's lovely camellia-like flowers that appear from perfectly round, tightly wrapped buds in midsummer. However, around year number three, it started blooming and, since then, this venerable tree  never fails to dress itself up in cotillion-like fashion, each year, just in time to give some of the fading flowers of late summer a little boost.

Butterflies visit this tree all day long.
Marble-sized and pearl white, the buds will unfurl new, long-blooming flowers each day for about a month.
What did I tell you?  The butterflies love the Franklin Tree!
Franklinia's glossy foliage provides beautiful fall color too, making this ornamental a striking addition in the cultivated landscape. So, while the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) that towers over the little Franklin tree, situated just 15 feet away, may choose to only produce 2 or 3 blooms a year--for whatever reason--here at Blooming Hill, the Franklinia has proven that it is just as distinguished as ol' Ben himself, never holding back its many virtues while proudly leading the gardens into fall.