Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Fragrance Surprise - The Little Leaf Linden


While taking a walk on a warm, not too breezy evening recently, I was overwhelmed with a sweet and alluring fragrance that was reminiscent of some tropical locale.  After a quick look up, I realized I was next to a Little Leaf Linden (Tilia cordata).  It is easy to forget that a big shade tree can provide such a sweet scent.

In the garden you can lose focus on some of the larger, cross-generational elements.  The quirky Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) in my front yard was planted in 1936, when the builders of my home returned from their honeymoon.  It could live for several more generations, provided global warming doesn't continue and pushing the zone for these beautiful trees further north.  The Linden in the image, located at Wildwood and Church Streets in Winchester, is at least 50 years old and could live for hundreds more if treated well.  

If you have some space on your property and are looking for a graceful tree to provide some shade, look no further than the Little Leaf Linden.  Trees that you plant today are really for future generations to enjoy, 50 years is a long time to wait for a nice shade tree like above, but good arborists can access large specimen trees grown at special nurseries.  

You could easily purchase a 30+' Linden or other tree and have a dramatic impact on your landscape immediately.  Several years ago, I helped a client put in two large Sugar Maple specimens.  One was 25' and the other was 30+' and much broader.  For about $25,000, which included a huge crane to lift the trees over the power lines,  we transformed her front yard providing privacy and much needed shade for plantings underneath.  This is an extreme example, but large trees are worth the expense for the immediate impact they can have on the landscape. 

The Linden will grow 50-70 feet and be somewhat pyramidal in youth and rounding out to the wonderful form you see in the image.  It casts a dense shade so be prepared for a thin lawn or deep shade plantings underneath.  The flowering and fragrance is both wonderful and challenging.  As you can see in the images, the small yellow flowers have a winged bract, that is light green just below, and when in flower the bracts make the tree shimmer in the light.  You can see this effect in the top image.  The scent can take hold of the surrounding area in early summer, especially in the evening when things quiet down, but the flowers will bring native bees.  Honey bees will not bother you like wasps or yellow-jackets, but you should know of their presence.  The flower nectar also attracts aphids, whose waste (Honeydew) attracts ants.  This cycle does not hurt the tree, but the waste and droppings cover cars, decks, terraces, benches and anything else you put underneath.  Best to site this tree away from everything.

The only real negative is that the Honeydew collects on lower leaves and Sooty Mold forms.  On top of that, Japanese Beetles flock to the Linden during the summer months.  Newer cultivars of this tree can alleviate some of these issues, so don't worry too much about these cultural issues.  The wonderful summer scent is well worth any minor troubles.

Lift your head up sometimes and appreciate the age and majesty of the larger trees around you and remember that many of them were planted before your parents were  born.  I always try to tell people this when they are considering cutting down an old tree on their property, the only way you can replace them is with time...lots of time.




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