June's Trees of the Month is a two for the price of one: the Snowdrop and Snowbell trees. It is to be a very short blog for the very good reason that I know very little about them - other than that they are beautiful trees that are too infrequently planted and deserve a mention, even if it is a necessarily brief one. They may not smack you in the retina like some of the Cherries, but if grace and elegance are your thing, they might be the trees for you! I find it easy to to confuse the two due to the similarity of their names and also of their flowers, so I for ease I combine them here. In any case, they are both in the family Styracaceae so I have some excuse for doing so.
This is the Japanese Snowbell, Styrax japonica - I think I can be forgiven for confusing it with the Halesias or Snowdrop trees. Although closely related, they are different genera with distinctly different fruit - Styrax fruit being small round dry drupe-like fruit with two seeds.
There are about 130 species of Styrax across America, East Asia and Malaysia and just one native to Europe. Probably the most frequently planted in Britain, and deservedly so, is the Japanese Snowbell, Styrax japonica, a small tree of 10 - 25ft with graceful slender spreading and sometimes drooping branches. The pure white flowers hanging along the undersides of the branches are delightful viewed from beneath. I had the perfect spot for one in my garden, on top of a bank beside a path running alongside the house where, as you passed, you would have a stunning display arching over your head. I duly set out to acquire one about 15 years ago but, given the choice between the Japanese Snowbell and the rarer Hemsley's Snowbell, Styrax Hemsleyana (or, less attractively named Hemsley's Storax), I opted for the Hemsley's for no better reason than that it was rarer - after all it couldn't be that different could it?......