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.
One of our garden finds from 2013 is this lovely pewter colored toothwort, that we believe to be a hybrid of two southeast US native species, Dentaria diphylla x heterophylla. If stock building up continues well this spring, we’ll be able to finally share next January. It’s hard to capture the color well in a photo, but we think this is a woodland garden treasure.
We have long enjoyed the winter-flowering, evergreen Clematis armandii, but had no idea the variability that existed until we acquired this new form from China in 2012. Unlike the more commonly known Clematis armandii var. armandii, which has 4 petals per flower, the subspecies hefengensis from Southwest Hubei Province in China has six petals. We have given this exceptional clone the cultivar name Clematis ‘Six Shooter’. We haven’t started propagating this yet, but are thinking about doing so. Would anyone be interested?
Epimedium sempervirens ‘Snowshoe Lake’ is looking particularly lovely today. We haven’t offered this before, so, do you like it enough that we should propagate a few from the garden?
One of my OCD exercises is keeping a list of desiderata plants for the garden, which I’ve either seen or heard about, and want to try. At this point, the list is closing in on a ridiculous 3,000 items. Some desiderata we find in less than a year, while others may grace the list for decades. One plant that had been on my list for about 20 years was Asphodelus acaulis…a fascinating stalkless species of asphodelus (most have tall stalks) from Northern Africa. Try as I might, I had been unsuccessful in tracking this down from any of my usual rock garden plant sources. It wasn’t until a 2018 plant shopping trip to the UK, that I finally found my grail plant in Bob Brown’s amazing Cotswold Garden Flowers. Now, going into its’ third season, it has settled in admirably, starting in late winter with its months long floral display of cupped light pink flowers nestled in the rain-lily like glossy green foliage. It is our hope to one day share this more widely…once we figure out the best propagation method.
Spirea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ is one of our favorite garden shrubs for its’ golden summer foliage, but we also adore it for it’s late winter/early spring floral show. Here it is at JLBG this week before the golden foliage emerges. You can see why it’s known by the common name, Bridal wreath spirea.
Flowering this week is our selection of Magnolia floribunda ‘Bridal Bouquet’. When we visited Yunnan, China in 1996, we were able to return with three seed of Magnolia floribunda, a species which seemed completely absent from American horticulture. The resulting seedlings were planted into the garden, where two promptly died during the first winter. Thankfully, one survived and is still thriving today 25 years later.
Magnolia floribunda ‘Bridal Bouquet’ forms an upright, somewhat open evergreen that sometimes starts flowering as early as mid-January. This year, thanks to our consistent cold, it waited until early March to start its floral show. The flowers have a distinctive and fascinating fragrance that we find unique among our magnolia collection. We have shared cuttings with several woody plant nurseries and donated plants to a few rare plant auctions in the hopes of getting this more widely cultivated.