My favorite plant this week is a tree, Bauhinia x blakeana, also known as the Hong Kong Orchid Tree. Although this semi-deciduous tree looks a bit shabby part of the year, it's hard to overlook when it's in bloom. I think mine could use some judicious pruning to improve its overall appearance but that will have to wait until it finishes this year's bloom cycle.
I don't have record of its bloom period for our first 2 years in the house but my impression is that it's blooming early this year. Sunset Western Garden Book, which says that the usual bloom period is late fall until spring, appears to substantiate this impression.
The large, 5-6 inch, magenta flowers, which attract regular visits by our resident hummingbirds, are readily visible through our bedroom window. The flowers are said to be fragrant but I can detect only the slightest scent. They become paler as they age, taking on a light purple hue.
The leaves are interesting. They are bi-lobed, which gives them a butterfly-like appearance when open.
Some leaf drop accompanies the bloom period, although the tree never loses all of its leaves. Drought conditions can also cause leaf drop. Inserting a folded leaf inside a book is said to support academic achievement.
Bauhinia x blakeana is usually sterile, seldom producing the seedpods that are characteristic of its parents, B. variegata and B. purpurea. It grows 12-20 feet tall and 15-20 feet wide. It's adapted to USDA zones 9b-11 (Sunset zones 13, 19, 21, 23, 24 and H1-H2). It prefers full sun and can tolerate heat but it needs at least moderate water.
The Hong Kong Orchid Tree is my contribution this week to the favorite plants corralled by Loree at danger garden. See her post here for her personal favorite of the week, as well as other gardeners' contributions.