Even rock gardeners plant trees, either for shade or for ornamental purposes in their gardens. I'm starting this topic to explore favorite ornamental trees and shrubs that we might consider adding to our gardens.
I start with Magnolia tripetala, a southeastern USA species. The USDA Plant Profile link shows its native distribution as including New England and Massachusetts, whereas the Flora of North America does not, it shows a more limited southerly range. Regardless, this "giant leaf" magnolia is perfectly hardy here.
Magnolia tripetala, umbrella magnolia, umbrella tree (Syn. Magnolia virginiana var. tripetala)
USDA Plant Profile shows a distribution including Massachusetts, but the Flora of North America does not show any distribution that far north, it shows a more limited southeasterly distribution.
What I show is a selection named M. tripetala 'Petite', selected on account of the bright red seed heads. My tree grew to about 18', but snapped off at the base in an ice storm in 2008. For the next 3 years I selected suckers to become the new tree, but each autumn the leader would break off. Finally in 2011, a new leader became strong enough to restart the tree. It's a quick grower, with enormous tropical looking leaves, and immense blooms.
I was totally surprised today to see a single large bloom from my deck, hadn't even seen a bud before that. The leaves can grow more than 2' long (70 cm), a leaf whorl is huge, with striking late blooming white flowers. When checking out the bloom, I was surprised that flowers smelled so bad, a weird hard-to-describe aroma, something like brackish fishy salt water. It is reported "the malodorous flowers of Magnolia tripetala are uniquely associated with this species".
Two views of the flower, about 8" across.