What is that wonderful scent in the air?
What is that sweet scent in the air that we smell while on our morning or evening walks? Many times we know right where the smells are coming from and we soon find our noses buried in the beauty of a blooming rose, a double petunia or the incredible Star Gazer lily. There are other aromas that catch our notice, which we recognize but have a more difficult time locating.
One is the scent of blooming Russian olive trees with their tiny yellow flowers and a heady scent that can be smelled a block away. Some even find their scent overwhelming if they are too near this tree in bloom. One of my favorite trees to enjoy while in bloom is the linden.
The linden tree has many wonderful qualities and just began to bloom in our region this past week. When you pass by one of these trees in bloom, you can’t help but stop and take some very deep breaths just to make sure you are fully enjoying the sweetness in the air. The tree will have literally thousands of small, pale yellow, cup-shaped flowers hanging from beneath the canopy in clusters. One flower alone will have a light smell, but thousands together will fill your senses into overload. I find myself taking in this scent for long periods of time when I am in the presence of one of these stately trees.
Linden trees have quite a history, all the way back to the Middle Ages. They are a very long-lived tree and some have been documented in Europe to be nearly 1,000 years old. If we plant one today, we will never see it reach its mature age, but our great-great-great-grandchildren might if it is cared for through the ages.
When planting a linden tree, always choose the healthiest looking in a nursery and make sure the tree has not become root-bound in the container. The best way to buy one is through a bare-root nursery, where it will establish much quicker and grow stronger in the long run. Place the tree to its proper level in the ground and stake if the tree is tall, but never for longer than a year or you will create a poor root system in the long run. Bare-root stock rarely needs staking and will leaf out immediately and begin to grow at a regular rate quickly. Once established, a linden tree can grow anywhere from 3 to 5 feet in the first few years. As it reaches taller heights, this increase slowly declines to lesser amounts.
Most trees maintain a terrific pyramid shape through their developing years. In most cases, this form will last for nearly 25 years before the crown begins to spread out. As the tree ages, the crown becomes quite broad and the lower branches can resemble that of the live oaks of the south given it has the room to spread.
The trunks of the tree are very straight and the branches become quite horizontal, holding up a dense canopy of large, heart-shaped leaves. When mature, some lindens can reach up to 80 feet tall with a spread of over 50 feet wide.
The most common lindens in our region are the large-leafed American linden or the Redmond linden. Many times these are also referred to as basswoods.
There are also little-leafed lindens such as Greenspire and Chancellor, which have a tight pyramidal shape, whereas Glenleven and Olympic have a more open and broad character.
There is also a great selection for smaller areas known as the Boulevard linden, which is a tall and narrow selection. All varieties have the same great characteristics with a few differences to keep them all unique in their own ways.
Most lindens prefer full sunlight and good moisture. They are not drought tolerant and in dry, hot conditions they can develop leaf scorch, where the edges of the leaves will become brown.
Lindens have been used for many years for their good quality of wood. Since it has straight fibers, it is a good wood for carving and bending for various hobbies. In the Asian countries, they use to take the bark and wet it until the inside fibers became loose. This was known as bast and could be used for making clothing. The flowers are a great product for bees to make honey or to harvest and use either fresh or dried as tea. The flowers are said to have anti-inflammatory properties and aid in digestion.
Since the demise of many American elms due to Dutch elm disease, the linden species became quite popular. It is a very desirable tree for the landscape for its many great amenities. Always remember when planting new trees in the garden to diversify and keep a balance within your area. Too many of any type of tree in one region will become a problem down the road. Diversify and protect your area from developing any type of monoculture, as with the right diversity, the landscape will have its most appealing presentation to the viewer.
Find a linden in nature’s garden today and inhale deeply the incredible aroma that only a linden flower can create. It will put your mind into seventh heaven. Locate them quickly, as they will soon be done blooming in the next few weeks.