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Early Flowers

Crocus Cyclamen coum Hellebore 'Merlin' Snowdrop Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Sweet Gum 'Slender Silhouette'

There is still some fall color left in the garden. A late comer is Sweet Gum 'Slender Silhouette' (Liquidambar styraciflua). The attractive star-shaped leaves have turned into a kaleidoscope of orange, yellow and red. Very pretty! 

If you are looking for a super-skinny tree for a tight spot, this would be a good contender. It is said to achieve a height of 50-60 feet with a width of just 5-8 feet. The growth is uniform so there is no tapering at the top or bottom. 

So, when one thinks of Sweet Gum, the greatest drawback is the messy, spiky balls that fall everywhere in the fall. This variety is supposedly light and sporadic on fruit production so time will tell. So far, I've not seen any but this is a young tree, planted almost exactly four years ago - in November 2019. Assuming that there is fruit, the slender shape of the tree should keep them from covering a great distance.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Oh gosh, it's a sweet little tree but I hope it's description is accurate. They are such easy spreaders here in Alabama as you know. I'm always on the hunt for seedlings to pull or cut but they are good little hiders. Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

  2. One neighbor has numerous Liquidambers at the front of their garden and they routinely provide fall - or, more commonly, winter - color. They're not used a lot here as far as I've seen but they do make a statement.

  3. The sweet gum that we had in our front yard when I was a child in Tennessee was my favorite tree. It was easy to climb and the prickly balls were used by me and my sister in throwing contests. I also love the various colors it has. So beautiful!

  4. I actually scour the neighborhood for those spiky balls, since I don't have a sweet gum tree. I use them around the base of the hostas. The slugs and snails don't like traveling over those spikes! However, you do risk being called "that crazy lady who is picking up those balls"...again ;) Debbie

  5. Oh my those colors!!! 5-8' wide but 50-60' tall? Wowza, that's like an Italian Cypress. Would like to see a mature one at that size.

    The stickerballs, yes. :( The roots of Liquidambars are a problem in some of SoCal--all over the soil surface, sprouting suckers Where there is more rain and colder winters, are they better behaved? Beautiful foliage, though, and some fall/winter color, which is rare in my neck of the woods.

    1. Yes, roots of the sweet gum can be a problem. I'm not sure about this one. You would think that they would not extend that far since the width is small.

  6. What a beautiful column of colors! I'm looking forward to seeing you share pictures in the future.


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