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What are those purplish pink trees along the road? Rhapsody on Redbuds

April 29, 2015


Rhapsody on Redbuds

I finally have a redbud tree.
Or perhaps it has me.
The redbud has long held me in its thrall.*

I’m thrilled that planting a free Arbor Day redbud seedling about seven years ago was all it took. We planted two and they are thriving.

Redbud trees are so hardy, springing up everywhere in the wild especially on the edge of forests.


I never knew what a redbud tree was, or even that there was such a thing, growing up in northern Indiana. Or maybe I was just ignorant and flower-poor. I certainly don’t think we had them growing there wild, in woods and byways everywhere. I’ve read that Chicago is about as far north as they grow well.

But I lived in the mountains of eastern Kentucky as a volunteer “teacher” the year after I graduated from high school and became acquainted with the Eastern Redbud, native to the U.S. My roommate hailed straight out of the desert surrounding Phoenix, Arizona, so she was the first one I heard rhapsodizing on redbuds. She would go on about the beautiful springs in Kentucky, stunned by so much green. She loved the dogwood too, and the interlacing of white blooms and purplish pink. It was only my 19th spring and having lived in only two places, I too fell in love with the rampant redbud. Something about the artistry of its dark branches accented by bright purple, looking like Japanese wall décor, maybe. The Chicago Tribune, where I was reading about the redbud, says they “set flowers on the bark, which trace the outline of the branches.” Ah, yes, that’s it!


Of course a redbud is more purple and pink than red. That’s why people get confused when they first start looking for or noticing the beauty of redbuds. Conversations go something like this: “What are those purplish pink trees along the road?” “Redbud.” “No, the flowers are purple.” “Yes, that’s redbud.” Would you call the flowers fuchsia?


However you describe them, I think it is the way the tiny blossoms lace through our barely turning woods on these Virginia mountainsides that speak to me of joy and new life and wonder after the long hard winter. Tints of soft green on other woodland trees paint a gentle contrast.

RedbudEdited1Our redbud just two years ago.

My sister, with some experience as a groundskeeper at a campground, told me how to prune it early, so that we wouldn’t have two or three trunks, and allow it to focus its strength growing into a main trunk. That was hard and painful. What if I pruned back the wrong one? As I inspected other redbuds that just sprang up wild near my office, I knew that many could prosper with several trunks growing closely together.

RedbudBridge2Yet we wanted this to be more of a tree than a bush, with a hardy trunk to withstand the wind on our knoll. Like these older, nursery redbuds which have long graced the parking lot at my office.


I’m happy we pruned the extra stems back, and can now imagine this tree with sturdy limbs and delighting us each spring with a new, if short lived, show.RedbudOffice1

Applause for the Creator of all things wild and beautiful, from one small creature here.

The redbud speaks to me spiritually, pointing me to beauty, to hope, to thriving life in the midst of the hardships of forest life.


* “Thrall: The state of being … under the sway of an influence.”


What is your favorite flowering tree? What for you is the best part of Spring where you live?


Or what have you pruned in your life that was painful, but for which you were eventually glad ?

  1. Elaine permalink

    Being from PA I never knew about the Redbud until we moved to central KY 6 years ago. When we experienced our first spring here, a friend of my daughter asked if we had any Redbuds on our property (which we do), and that’s when I realized how “important” they were. 🙂 I love driving along the country roads seeing them burst forth in their beauty along with the wild dogwoods. I only wish they would last longer. Someone was handing out Redbud seedlings at the library a few weeks ago, so I accepted one and have put it in a pot. I really hope it grows, although there are no signs of life yet. Do you know how long it will take?

    Another tree of beauty here in the spring is the Bradford Pear! And when we lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland the Crape Myrtle grew in abundance.

  2. Elaine, so happy for you to verify my perception that we really didn’t know much about Redbud “up north.” I totally agree I wish they lasted longer. Ahh. In our experience the Redbud was easy to grow. I love the Bradford Pear, too, my husband not so much because of their fast growing but very weak limbs which all too soon break in even moderate winds. Love Crape Myrtle (spelled like crape??) too. Abundant blessings!

  3. Elaine permalink

    Melodie, I wasn’t sure either about the spelling of crape (crepe) myrtle, so I looked it up on Google. It came up both ways, but mostly crape so that’s what I went with. lol I think I like “crepe” better, though 🙂 Yes, your husband is right about the limbs of the Bradford Pear being weak. KY had a really bad ice storm in 2009, and it took a toll on those trees.

  4. Your titles are as intriguing as your posts, and I see you bring the outside in too. Right now a yellow and red rose are perched on the kitchen window sill. Your redbud is lovely.

  5. Caro-Claire Wiles permalink

    Hello Melodie
    Being even further north than you here in Canada, our spring season has been very slow this year to even get started.
    There have been a few houses around town that have a lot of purple flowers on their lawns (don’t know the name)and there is one up the street from us whose front lawn is all crocuses
    This week the purple flowers have mingled with them and now there are miniature tulips springing up as well
    It is quite a show!
    When I was growing up in the Toronto area, my favourite spring flowering bush was always the yellow forsythia
    They don’t seem to come out as fast as we moved further to the north
    Today I was excited when we went out for lunch to see some flower baskets around their out door patio with forsythia branches in them
    On our way out , I went to get a picture of them and found they were just artificial ones!
    How disappointing!
    Still not much coming out around our house but I did see some green leaves starting to poke out in the back
    Hopefully we will soon have some colour. It has been a long winter!

    • Another word from up north! Thanks for sharing the slow slow creeping of spring. When I used to drive home to north Florida from my college in Virginia for spring break, it was exciting to watch the color creep into the journey as we went south! You will soon be enjoying rich colors! Blessings on your day!

  6. Verda Cook permalink

    I live in the southern part of Canada (Ontario to be exact). As well, I am a retired Accredited Landscape Designer. There are several varieties of Redbud. Two thrive in Zone 7 and 8 which would include Chicago. However, there is a variety of Redbud which is native to Canada. After reading this blog, I went to the Botanical Gardens across the street from our Condo. A Redbud exists there which is native to Canada and I watch for it to come into bloom. There is another name for the Redbud which I have found very interesting. It is also called the Judas Tree. The latin name is arbor Judae. In researching I learned that legend has it, Judas hanged himself on one of these trees. The varieties grown in Zones 7 & 8 in the US will grow to a height of 20 to 25feet. The variety native to Canada attains a height of 10 to 15 feet. Looking at it, Judas must have been a very small man like Zaccheus to be able to hang himself from one of those upper branches.
    Here in Ontario, the Redbud blooms at the same time as the Forsythia, many of which grow wild. The combination of brilliant yellow( and grow in the same locales) and orchid/pink colour the landscape with an inescapable sense of God rejuvenating the earth.

  7. Verda, nice to hear from someone new here with great credentials for commenting on landscape and another name for Redbud. Not sure an inviting name, though. Now that you mention it, I think I’ve heard that before. So they grow a bit bigger in the U.S., eh? Very interesting details and I enjoyed hear your input and mutual appreciation for God’s plan for rejuvenating the earth each spring!

  8. Athanasia permalink

    Our trees are just starting to bud. The forsythia and the pussy willows are out. Soon we will have lilac and flowering plum. There is a park here with a lot of chestnut trees and they are very impressive when all in bloom. My favorite is mock orange…My paternal grandparents house has one of those and flowering crab too. Our apple trees will be blooming soon . We planted two hardy to zone 4 (we are 4b) semi dwarf peach trees last fall. They definitely made it through the winter, looking good. Oh we have lots of spirea in the area, popular in the older neighborhoods especially. They are called bridal veil spirea as they are cascading branches covered in white blooms. That’s all I can think of right now.

    Our dandelions came out this morning…none when I drove into work, but there they were when I came home. Pretty soon we’ll be making dandelion jelly.

    • I don’t know if I’d know what chestnut blooms look like! White? Glad your dwarf trees seem to be doing fine! We had spirea at our former house. But ours never bloomed until May. I’m impressed you make dandelion jelly. Out of the blossoms, I presume, like dandelion wine? Thanks for letting us feel a little of the unfolding spring a little further north (and I don’t keep up with zones!)

      • Athanasia permalink

        The spirea are not in bloom yet here …just mentioned them on my list of what we have and what I like.

      • Athanasia permalink

        I would think you’d have horse chestnut trees there. They drop those spikey green balls that when you peel that shell away is a shiny smooth brown and cream colored (inedible) nut. Well the squirrels like them. The flowers look like candles made of multiple little white blossoms. They grow straight up. By you they may already be blooming. The trees are huge. If you read THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK there is a horse chestnut tree outside the attic.

      • Athanasia permalink

        Dandelion jelly is a tradition from my husband’s side; some people call it Amish honey. I’m not a big fan of it and if no one brings it up, it won’t happen. You have to gather a lot of the heads so children have to be home and want to help.

        Well, if you grow your own food you are more likely to know zones. You are in Virginia? I remember a trip to Washington D.C./Maryland/N Carolina/Virginia in early May and it was in the 80s and maybe more. It was humid, too. It as very nice in the Smokey mountains though.

  9. The way you write is such flowing. Keep writing.

    • I see that the themes of my blog on finding harmony in things is in harmony with your own. Thanks for stopping in and adding your comment!

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