Many gardeners with flowering peach or nectarine trees have encountered reddish, curling spring leaves, an early sign of Taphrina deformans fungus. Not all curled leaves, however, are disease symptoms. A natural trait for a handful of trees, leaf curl has now become a desirable ornamental feature. It often accompanies curling or twisted branches. Several curly-leaved trees and their smaller hybrids are available for home gardens.
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Black Locust 'Lace Lady' Twisty Baby
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is a 30- to 50-foot deciduous tree with compound green leaves and cascading clusters of fragrant, white pealike spring flowers. The 'Lace Lady' Twisty Baby cultivar is a slowly growing version of the larger tree, standing just 8 to 10 feet high when mature. It's hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 4, with winter lows approaching minus -1.11 degrees C. It shares black locust's feathery, dark green foliage with yellow fall colour. Some of its leaflets curl as they age. This tree, with occasional crops of blooms, is an attractive focal point for small spaces, advises the Missouri Botanical Garden. Twisty Baby likes a well-drained, sunny to partly shady location with dry to averagely moist soil.
Curl-Leaf Mountain Mahogany
Curl-leaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) is a 10- to 20-foot, evergreen Rose family tree native to foothill slopes of the western United States' Great Basin. The zone 4-hardy tree is recognisable from its white bark and leathery foliage. Its small, narrow leaves, with glossy green surfaces and silvery undersides, curl to one side from pinched midsections. The densely twigged tree has clusters of yellow blooms in March and April. The flowers -- and the entire tree -- emit a spicy fragrance, notes the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Curl-leaf mountain mahogany likes partial shade and dry, infertile soil.
Dragon's Claw Willow 'Tortuosa'
'Tortuosa' is a dragon's claw willow (Salix matsudana) cultivar. This zone 5-hardy, 20- to 30-foot tree's contorted branches make it an unusual winter garden feature, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Its twisting, narrow leaves -- as long as 4 inches -- have vivid green tops and lighter undersides. Autumn foliage is golden yellow. The plant's slender clusters of tiny yellow blooms appear in April and May. Tortuosa performs best in full sun and moist or wet, well-drained soil. It deserves a spot where its winter form will be on display.
Japanese Maple 'Butterfly'
Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) 'Butterfly' is a zone 5-tolerant, dwarf tree reaching only 7 to 12 feet high and 4 to 8 feet wide. Its lobed, 3-inch, white-edged green leaves often curl, notes the Missouri Botanical Garden. Borders of the pink-tinged spring foliage deepen to scarlet or magenta in autumn. Butterfly's red-purple April blooms give way to September and October samaras, or winged seedpods. This tree likes sunlight-dappled shade and rich, moist, well-drained soil. Its may develop leaf scorch in full, hot sun.
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