A native Spring stalwart, the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) began to bloom here in the Flint Hills just yesterday. I was beginning to be afraid this day might not arrive this year, it felt so late, but I was fretting under a false assumption.
See, this is why you keep records. As I've written before and as a general rule, I'm pretty terrible about keeping records, but redbud first bloom dates are perhaps my one exception to the rule. And I thought this year was pretty late, now the second week of April, for the redbuds to start blooming. But a check of my notes informs me that I'm not only wrong, I'm dead wrong. In six of the past 8 years, the redbud outside our laundry window first bloomed from 4/10 to 4/24. In the "unordinary" years 2007 and 2009, the weather was askew and things were obviously out of whack. In 2007, my redbud bloomed early on 3/31/07 after a warm Spring, but then we got hit by the terrible black freeze of mid-April so the redbud was perhaps the only thing that did bloom that spring. And in 2009, we had 3 inches of snow and sleet on March 28th, and according to my notes, my redbud didn't bloom at all that year, probably due to that late storm damage. Of course, it's possible that I've slipped into this parallel Universe from one where my memory is correct and redbud trees do bloom earlier in Kansas, but since the written records correspond to this current Universe, how would I know? How many redbuds can dance on the head of a pin?
I'm always jumping the garden gun and starting Spring yard work a mite early, so the key lesson here is probably to learn some patience. I should rejoice, I guess, that my redbud has waited till now to bloom, because it probably means we've had a normal pace of spring and the garden will be better for it. But I should also confess that I'm not especially fond of redbud trees. I've never been able to cozy up and embrace the fuchsia-pink color of the native redbuds, so I use them as an indicator of the beginning of the garden season and when to have put the crabgrass preventer on the lawn, but I don't crave their color as I do my red peach tree. Perhaps I should have chosen one of the named cultivars such as 'Forest Pansy' or 'Pinkbud'?
After seeing a stunning example from another local gardener, I will admit that I started a redbud grove beneath a cottonwood tree using several volunteer redbuds to make an understory group at the back of my garden. And I know some of you are asking why, if I'm not partial to redbud trees, I have one growing as a specimen tree right outside our laundry room window and back door, but the reason for that contradiction is simple. Mrs. ProfessorRoush loves redbud trees. And so I planted it, the first tree beside the new house, where she'll get the most pleasure out of it. Take it from me, fellow husband-gardeners, redbud trees do not have a "manly" color, but planting that tree in your garden will pay dividends every year.