Greet spring early with the glorious blooms of the Eastern redbud, which emerge in March and April when much of the Lowcountry landscape remains asleep. A member of the pea family, this native tree produces edible flowers (try using them raw as a garnish for salads; they carry a slightly nutty, sweet flavor) that serve as a much-needed food source for butterflies and bees. After two to three weeks, the spectacular flowers are replaced by reddish, heart-shaped leaves, which offer seasonal splendor as they change to dark green in summer and gold in fall. With its moderate temperatures, February is the prime time to add one of these redbud varieties to your yard.
‘Ace of Hearts’ (Cercis canadensis)
A favorite of hummingbirds, this vibrant specimen bursts with fuchsia flowers followed by semi-glossy, shingle-stacked leaves. Reaching 12 feet in maturity, it is notable for its manageable size.
‘Alba’ (Cercis canadensis)
Devoid of a particular pigment, this unique cultivar boasts milky-white flowers and similarly subdued leaves. An elegant silhouette emerges with age, as the ‘Alba’ takes a flat-topped vase-shape and achieves prominent stature (between 15 and 20 feet).
‘Ruby Falls’ (Cercis canadensis)
Rarely exceeding eight feet tall, this compact 2009 hybrid is the perfect pick for a smaller garden. Clusters of blushing pink flowers make way for cascading syrah-hued leaves, which develop a low, mounded habit when grown naturally. It can also be staked to gain height.