|James Kohut, Staff Writer|
There are many showy and audacious trees and shrubs in the North, which make our delightful springs and hot summers such a pleasure to enjoy. Many of these can be somewhat garish in their gala performances, almost too "in your face" when they're being ornamental. They're either entirely smothered in hot colors that can be seen from an airplane, or they sport gigantic vainglorious flowers that assault the eyes of passersby.
Not that there's anything wrong with this, but not everyone is after a pompous performance that rocks the sensitivities of the neighborhood. For those who seek a more refined, elegant beauty in a landscape performance, nothing quite matches the nearly obscure white fringetree. This native of North America is a close relative of the lilacs, but with nowhere near as gaudy flowers. Rather, when in bloom this plant is best described by words like dainty, delicate and frilly, almost airy, and yet no less alluring than any lilac that's competing for attention nearby.
This spring bloomer is pretty much a one-hit wonder in terms of its landscape performance, but by no means is it otherwise undesirable. The balance of the year, it is defined by its neat and tidy growth habit, its lack of aggressive tendencies or negative characteristics, occasionally good yellow fall color, and the promise of a happy spring to come yet again.
Like most members of the Oleaceae family, white fringetree is very easy to grow, and will tolerate a wide range of soil types and moisture conditions. It will do best in good garden soil with average moisture, and lots of sun. It makes a great specimen shrub in the yard, and can be used as a background plant where its spring show can take center stage, but where it can recede into the background as a foil for lower more colorful summer performers in the foreground.