Situated in interior southwestern France, the département Dordogne (formerly compté Perigord) is considered a part of the Aquitaine region. Dordogne is between the Loire River valley and the high Pyrénées mountains and is known for grape vineyards, wine production and a countryside littered with ancient castles. The fertile soil and mild climate affords gardeners the opportunity to grow and enjoy many flowering trees, notes Laurent Lestourneaud of the Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux. Based on a map of Europe published in the book "Waterlilies and Lotuses," Dordogne's winter temperatures drop to -10 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the equivalent of U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone 6.
Mr. Lestourneaud shared that many magnolias are grown for their ornate flowering displays in the region. Four species mentioned include southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana), Chinese evergreen magnolia (Magnolia delavayi) and the bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla). All but the saucer magnolia bloom in summer months. These are all exotic species, meaning that they are not native to the Dordogne area.
Crab apple trees are in bloom in this part of France any time from late April to mid-May. Although the flowers are the key ornamental feature of crab apples, the tiny fruits are edible and often used to make preserves. Sweet crab apple (Malus coronaria) and the carmine crab apple (Malus x atrosanguinea) are two commonly encountered trees in Dordogne, although both are non-native.
Golden Rain Tree
In midsummer, the golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) blooms. It is commonly used as a shade or street tree. The tips of the tree's branches are covered in long, finger-like clusters of tiny yellow flowers. Afterward, the blossoms become three-side pods that turn from light green to yellow and finally tan, looking like small paper lanterns. The golden rain tree hails from eastern Asia.
"Rosaceous" is an ambiguous term to describe any member of the large rose family (Rosaceae), and includes closely related flowering trees such as cherries, plums and peaches. In Dordogne, purple-leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii') and American wild plum (Prunus americana) display their white flowers in early spring. The hybrid Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus 'Hokusai') is seen in Dordogne, bearing its pale pink, double-form blossoms in mid-spring.
Native to China, the crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) produces tremendously colorful blooming displays in mid- to late summer. Moreover, the barks of these trees are multicolored, often with smooth and exfoliating bark on the same plant. Many different varieties are grown in Dordogne, but usually trees with pinkish purple flowers are seen here. The crape myrtle also provides a colorful red to orange fall foliage display.