Although narcissus are far from my favorite bulb…mostly due the terribly obtrusive foliage, we have grown quite a few species and cultivars through the years. My love is really for the smaller plants, which usually come with smaller foliage. One cultivar that has stood out through the years is Narcissus ‘Hawera’. Here is our oldest clump, planted in 1997, and despite not being regularly divided, it still puts on a fabulous show every year. Our plants are from our dear friends Brent and Becky Heath at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.
There are several tiny rock garden-sized phlox, bred in the EU, and sold by specialist nurseries as forms of the Western US native, Phlox douglasii. The only problem is that Phlox douglasii isn’t really growable much outside climates similar to its native haunts. Phlox expert Charles Oliver determined these are actually hybrids between Phlox douglasii and the East Coast native Phlox subulata. This week, one of those hybrids, Phlox ‘Ochsen Blut’ is ravishing, and thriving in our crevice garden. The name, which translates to Ox Blood, indicates that the breeder most likely doesn’t have any training in marketing.
Every year in late winter/early spring, one of the woody showstoppers at JLBG is the Afghan bush cherry, Prunus jacquemontii. This year was no exception as this stunning deciduous shrub is putting on an amazing show. Our twelve-year old plant is now 4′ tall x 6′ wide.
Oh my goodness, how terrible these wonderful plants are treated by the hedge-clipper wielding masochistic masses! These amazing plants are large shrubs/small trees…not foundation shrubs…geez! We currently grow 27 cultivars, and need to replace three that we managed to kill. Purportedly some of these newer selections actually stay more compact, but that remains to be seen in our in-ground trials. Here are a few of our older specimens along with their actual measured size.
Loropetalum chinense ‘Crimson Fire’ (advertised as growing 4′ tall x 4-5′ wide) measures 6′ tall x 8′ wide after only 4 years. Growth rate is increasing and it looks like it should reach a mature size of 24′ tall x 32′ wide.
Loropetalum chinense ‘Pippa’s Red’ (below) has reached 35′ tall x 20′ wide in 20 years.
The bicolor, genetically unstable Loropetalum ‘Ruby Snow’ (advertised as growing 6′ tall x 6′ wide) is 6′ tall x 8′ wide after 4 years, so mature size will probably be 24′ tall x 32′ wide. The dueling colors create an amazing effect.
Loropetalum ‘Shang-hi’ (below), marketed as Purple Diamond, has reached 12′ tall x 16′ wide in twelve years, and the growth rate appears to be slowing.
Loropetalum ‘Snow Panda’ (below) is 7′ tall x 10′ wide after 5 years. The original plant, introduced by the US National Arboretum is 10′ tall x 8.5′ wide after fifteen years. It’s odd that our plant is growing so differently here.
Loropetalum chinense ‘Zuzhou’ (below) is our oldest remaining loropetalum at 26 years. Mature size is now 20′ tall x 24′ wide. We had older specimens of the original US National Arboretum introductions ‘Blush’ and ‘Burgundy’, but these were discarded to make room for more improved selections.
Please consider buying a tape measure to help get this sited so that they never need to meet a pair of mutilators (i.e. hedge trimmers) in person.
Sweeping sedge is in full flower in the garden today. The North American native (Canada south to Florida and west to Texas) Carex bromoides swept us off our feet! This delightful small evergreen sedge forms a 6″ tall x 30″ wide, delicate-textured patch of green hair-like foliage. Although it prefers moist to mucky wet soil, ours has fared beautifully in well ammended compost. Carex bromoides is a favorite meal food for a number of butterfly and skipper caterpillars, wood ducks, grouse, and several songbirds, which in turn eliminates any need for fertilizers. We think you’ll really love Carex bromoides, either as a solitary specimen or in mass.
The holiest of arums, Arum palestinum is in full flower at JLBG. We don’t grow many Palestinian natives, but this one has thrived since 1993. How’s that for a traffic stopper?
There are a number of very exciting new ajugas to hit the market in the last few years, but one of our favorites has a longer history. Ajuga reptans ‘Planet Zork’, which we first acquired in 2004, is a non-flowering, crinkled-leaf sport of Ajuga ‘Burgundy Glow’. It was brought to the US from Japan, and later named and introduced here by plantsman Barry Yinger. We first grew Ajuga ‘Planet Zork’ in light shade, but it really showed its true colors when we transplanted it into full sun and moist soils. It’s parent, Ajuga ‘Burgundy Glow’ is ungrowable in our climate, rotting at the sign of rain during our hot, humid summers. Unlike many ajugas, this is a tight clumper that doesn’t seed around…an ideal groundcover.
In 2019, our research staffers were botanizing in Montgomery County, NC, when Jeremy stumbled on this painted buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica) seedling with new pink growth. In the past, we have not had good luck transplanting seedling aesculus, but thankfully this one survived nicely and two years later, it looked great this spring as the new foliage emerged. When it gets larger, we’ll share scions with grafters so we can make this more widely available.
April is an amazing month for wild gingers of the genus asarum, in the garden. Here are a few that are looking particularly stunning this week.
Looking great in the garden today is our collection of the native spring ephemeral trout lily, Erythronium harperi. This native to a small region on the Tennessee/Alabama border is currently considered a subspecies of E. americanum, but will most likely be elevated to species status before long. Unlike many running species, this remains a tight clumper with a superb show of large yellow outfacing flowers.