Japanese Stewartia – The Ornamental Tree That Loves To Be Close

Design, Plantings · Written by Roger

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stewartia1The right ornamental tree planted reasonably close to a structure or building can do great things.

As attractive as a structure can be, a tree (or let’s just say a plant in good scale & proportion) can complement the structure.  You could even think of the plant as a companion to the building, wall, fence…whatever.

The other neat thing a well-chosen ornamental tree can do close to a structure or in a limited space is create a greater feeling of depth & dimension. In effect, make the space feel bigger than it actually is.

In future posts we’ll see more examples of this basic design principle in practice, but I’d like to show you one of the ornamental trees that works great in this way.

Japanese Stewartia’s Got All The Right Equipmentstewartia2

Generally speaking a tree used in closer quarters should be “lighter” in appearance.  By that I mean the branching should be more open in character – more transparent.

This is Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia). It is not heavy or imposing at all, making it ideal close-up.  Although it could grow greater than 20′, I’ve rarely seen it get much taller.  You could describe the overall shape (or form) as pyramidal to oval.  Fall color is really nice as you can see, and it has exfoliating bark which adds another design feature, especially in the winter.

One of its distinguishing characteristics is that it flowers around July.  This is huge because, for the most part, ornamental trees flower in the spring here in the northeast. On one project I planted a Stewartia adjacent to a series of steps and landings for a wood deck.  You can have a 4th of July BBQ and its flowering branches are right next to you as you climb the stairs.

Here’s one key issue with Stewartia: they don’t like the hot, afternoon sun. They’ll struggle and even have the edges of their leaves burned.  Therefore, avoid planting them in south to southwest exposures.

In the right spot I think you’re going to love this tree.  Plus, it’s not terribly common and combined with some of its unique qualities you’re bound to get people talking.

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