We find aucubas an invaluable evergreen shrub for dry shade, and one of our favorites is looking rather nice this week. Aucuba japonica ‘Ogon-no-tsuki’ is also one of the slowest growers due to the large amount of gold in the leaf center. It is our hope to perhaps finally have enough to share in the next couple of years.
Sometimes we’re all in need of inspiration, and this spring, ours came from its namesake, Magnolia ‘Inspiration’. This stunning evergreen hybrid between Magnolia doltsopa and Magnolia laevifolia was developed by our old hosta friend, Barry Sligh of New Zealand, who sadly passed away in 2019. Our amazing seven-year old specimen is now 10′ tall x 10′ wide and as you can see if absolutely loaded with deliciously fragrant flowers. Pat McCracken of Garden Treasures Nursery tells me that he produced it for a while, but stopped because it grew too fast in containers. I agree with his assessment that it is the proverbial ugly duckling when young, but it sure makes a heckuva swan when it ages.
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?
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.
We’re not sure why this sweet box is confused, but we love it nevertheless. Flowering now at JLBG with an insane fragrance emitted by the tiny white flowers. Here is our eight-year old evergreen clump in flower now.
One of our favorite blue-foliage conifers that thrives in the southeast heat and humidity is Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Blue Ice’. This is a four year old planting of the Arizona native that’s already made a nice size specimen. Cupressus ‘Blue Ice’ is great to use for Christmas arrangements, due to it’s color, foliage fragrance, and ability to hold up very well after being cut.
In 2008, we met the deeply-lobed Fatsia polycarpa (aralia family) on its’ home turf in Taiwan. From our expedition, we were able to import several seedlings, which are now mature. Only one clone had ever flowered before this year, and cold temperatures always killed the developing buds. Finally, this winter, a second clone, Fatsia polycarpa ‘Taroko Treasure’ flowered for the first time, and these flower stalks have withstood the winter temps, which so far, have only dropped to 21F. If these seed mature, we may finally be able to offer this rarely available species…finger crossed.
We now have so many aspidistra (cast iron plants), that there is at least one species flowering virtually every month of the year. Winter still has the most flowering species, and here are a few that are currently blooming in our collection. Most folks don’t see the flowers because they either don’t know to look or plant their plants too deep, so the flowers form underground. We like to snip off some of the oldest leaves for a better floral show.
Aspidistra fungilliformis ‘China Star’ is a Chinese collection from Jim Waddick
Aspidistra tonkinensis is a Dylan Hannon collection from Vietnam…not enough to share yet, but soon.
Aspidistra sp. nov. is an Alan Galloway collection from Vietnam. We thought this was Aspidistra lutea, but we now think it may be a new undescribed species. This one offsets slow, so it may be a couple of years before we can share…hopefully by then we can get this named.
Aspidistra vietnamensis…a Japanese selection. Most of the plants in the trade in the deep south which go by a variety of species names are actually this newly described species. We’ve had plants like Aspidistra ‘Ginga’ keyed out previously by the world’s authorities as either Aspidistra elatior or Aspidistra sichuanensis, but to us, they never quite fit into those species. Now that Aspidistra vietnamensis has been published, we finally have a match.
So, how do we figure this out? Our staff taxonomist, Zac Hill has become an expert on aspidistra by dissecting the flowers. Yes, leaves, growth habit, and rhizome are important, but it’s all about the flowers. The first image below shows the anthers inside the flower, and the bottom photo shows the stigma. Minor differences in the shapes and orientation are used to distinguish one species from another. We have other collaborators in the UK, France, Germany, and Russia with whom we share images and identification thoughts.
There are several of us that travel around the world to find these new species, and then work to get them into cultivation for the purpose of ex-situ conservation. We hope you’ll try some of our amazing offerings.