The genus Prunus includes a large number of attractive flowering species and hybrids, but foremost among them are the flowering cherries. Worthwhile types are Japanese flowering cherry (P. 'Mount Fuji') with its sweetly perfumed white flowers and graceful, arching form; and P. 'Okame', which takes the prize for earliest flowering cherry, offering an explosion of carmine-red blooms after the last dregs of winter.
Height: 25-30 feet
Zones: most 6-8
Editor's pick: Kwanzan cherry (P. 'Kwanzan') for its profusion of double, pink flowers.
White to pink flowers burst from reddish buds to make flowering crab apples (Malus spp.) among the loveliest spring adornments. They're rugged, too, being among the most reliable spring bloomers for Northern climates. Hundreds of varieties are available; be sure to choose disease-resistant types. M. sargentii 'Tina', M. 'Prairifire', and M. 'Snowdrift' are just a few of the many selections available.
Height: varies; most remain well under 30 feet
Editor's pick: Malus 'Indian Summer'; rose-red blooms followed by red fruit.
Golden chain tree (Laburnum x watereri) drips with spectacular clusters of scented, yellow flowers in early summer. Consider growing this tree as an espalier to showcase its flowers, which resemble wisteria blooms, or plant it as a specimen tree where its display will have a big impact.
Height: 25 feet
Editor's pick: 'Vossii' bears abundant, extra-long clusters.
Glowing, purplish-blue spring flowers drape 8-12 inches amid ferny foliage, making jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) a star in warm climates. Once established, this drought- tolerant tropical beauty needs only occasional water. Jacaranda casts a pleasant filtered shade, so it's excellent near a deck or patio.
Height: 50 feet
Few trees bloom as profusely in summer as crape myrtle. The delicate flowers appear in large spikes of white, pink, or lavender atop new growth. The smooth, peeling bark of crape myrtle is also exceptional. Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica and hybrids) are fully hardy to Zone 7; they'll survive in Zones 5 and 6 but may die back to the roots, regrowing each year in shrubby form. Fortunately, they typically bloom even when regrowing from the roots. To control size and encourage vigorous growth and bloom, prune hard each winter.
Height: 25 feet
Editor's pick: 'Peppermint Lace' has unusual pink flowers with white fringes.