Evening Light Japanese SnowbellStyrax japonicus 'Evening Light' (PP# 24,168)
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Styrax japonicus 'Evening Light' (PP# 24,168)
Outdoor Growing zone
The Evening Light Japanese Snowbell is a small deciduous specimen tree with very dark-purple leaves that keep their color from spring to fall. In early summer it is festooned with clusters of hanging white bell-shaped flowers that are sweetly fragrant. These are followed by brown-green fruits like olives that last into fall and are eaten by songbirds. Easy to grow, this tree is perfect as a lawn specimen, at the back of shrub beds, in sunny parts of woodlands and in Asian-style gardens.
Grow the Evening Light Japanese Snowbell in full sun for the best leaf colors, although it will also grow well in partial shade. It isn’t bothered by pests or diseases and it grows best in moist, well-drained soil that is neutral to acidic, but it isn’t as demanding as other acid-loving plants. Some occasional pruning to develop a clean trunk and an open crown is all the care this problem-free tree needs.
The Japanese snowbell tree is an attractive small flowering tree that is seen in gardens from time to time. It is certainly a worthwhile tree, but the Evening Light Japanese Snowball tree takes its beauty to a whole new level. A unique breakthrough, this stunning beauty wears a gorgeous kimono of purple leaves, instead of the usual green, meaning this is a tree that is striking and valuable month after month, not just when in bloom. Not only do the leaves transform it into an eye-catching specimen, they create a wonderful backdrop for the white flowers, making them sparkle and stand out like fairy lights. A new introduction, you can be the first among your gardening friends to show off this lovely tree in all its glorious robes.
The Evening Light Japanese Snowbell is a small deciduous tree growing about 12 inches each year, so that a 10-year tree will be around 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It will probably reach a maximum size of around 20 feet, with a 12-foot crown, although the parent tree can in time become 30 feet tall or more. The trunk is slender, with a rounded crown and graceful horizontal branching. The bark is smooth and soft gray, developing narrow vertical fissures with age, and young twigs are dark purple. The leaves are slender ovals, smooth and rounded, edged with tiny serrations, and between 1½ and 4 inches in length. Newly emerged leaves are a rich, very dark purple to near black, and this color is retained well throughout the summer, particularly when this tree is grown in full sun, which it enjoys. With shade you will find the older leaves become more olive green after that first spring display.
This tree flowers in early summer, in May, June, and even into July, with gorgeous hanging clusters of white blooms that are bell-shaped, with 5 waxy flaring petals. The long stalks that carry the flowers are purple, instead of green, making the flowers even more showy. They have a soft fragrance and flutter in the breeze, making a wonderful display. Blooming is prolific, with every horizontal branch decorating with clusters of flowers all along the underside. The flowers transform into olive-like berries that are greenish-brown and stay for a long time into fall, before being taken by songbirds, who will entertain you by hanging under the branches while enjoying them.
The Evening Light Japanese Snowbell is the perfect sized tree for a smaller garden, as a specimen out on a lawn, or adding an exotic touch to a sunny glade in a woodland. Plant it at the back of larger shrub beds too, for the perfect backdrop. Of course, coming from Japan and China, it’s perfect in an Asian-style garden. It even makes a great container tree or a unique and special bonsai. Since it enjoys similar conditions to Rhododendrons and Azaleas, although more sun, it’s later blooming beautifully extends the season of interest in a woodland garden.
This lovely tree is hardy in zone 5 and grows everywhere into zone 8, and into zone 9 where the summers are not too hot and humid – so it’s happy in the northwest, for example.
Although the Japanese snowbell tree will grow well in both full sun and partial shade, for the richest leaf coloring that will last all summer, it is best to plant your Evening Light Japanese Snowbell in full sun. It grows in most well-drained soils, with some preference for neutral to acidic soils, although it isn’t as demanding as genuine ‘acid-loving’ plants are. Regular moisture is best, although a well-established tree will tolerate periods of normal summer dryness without any trouble.
The Evening Light Japanese Snowbell is no trouble to grow, and it’s without any significant pests or diseases. It looks best grown with a single trunk, so that the horizontal branching is shown off, so some simple staking and training when young makes that easy to achieve. Prune in late winter if necessary, perhaps to remove any excess twiggy growth inside the crown as it grows. Remove branches while young to avoid large scars on the smooth bark.
The Japanese snowbell, Styrax japonicus, is the only species of Styrax grown in gardens, although there are some shrubby species native to North America. The Japanese tree grows across a large part of China, as well as in Japan and Korea. The first plants brought to the West were probably grown in Japanese nurseries, as this tree was probably already a garden favorite there. It seems to have first arrived in America at the Arnold Arboretum, brought from Japan by Dr. George Rogers Hall in 1875, on his last trip to Japan, after a life of working as a doctor in Shanghai and then becoming a trader between the east and America. More trees were brought over later, but it was well into the 20th century before nurseries started offering this tree. It is also popular in Europe. Henny Kolster runs a small nursery in Boskoop, the Netherlands, a center of plant production, and he specializes in the rare and unusual. He grew a batch of seedling Japanese snowbells, and in 2001, among them, he spotted one with purple, instead of green, foliage. After growing it for some years he released it as Evening Light, receiving an American patent in 2014.
We are proud to be able to make this wonderful new tree available to our clients – it’s a fabulous addition to any garden, and sure to win your heart. Order now, as rare trees like this are never abundant, and we don’t know when we might find it again.