Loropetalums…not Low Petalums

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 ‘Crimson Fire’

Loropetalum chinense ‘Pippa’s Red’ (below) has reached 35′ tall x 20′ wide in 20 years.

Loropetalum chinense ‘Pippa’s Red’

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 chinense ‘Ruby Snow’

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 chinense ‘Shang Hi’

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 ‘Snow Panda’

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.

Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum ‘Zuzhou’

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.

Hymen Flowers

Hymen flowers (aka Hymenocallis) are still going, as the Northern Mexican species now perfume the garden. The genus begins flowering in spring, and if you grow a wide range of species, you can have flowers until late summer/early fall. Here’s a photo we recently took of Hymenocallis pimana in the garden.  While many hymenocallis prefer very moist soils, we grow this in a dry bed with agaves and cactus.  Starting in early evening, the flowers emit a honeysuckle-like fragrant to lure evening moths for reproductive activities. While we also like the more commonly sold Dutch hybrids, which are actually intergeneric crosses with the South American Ismene, we think the North American native species are far superior as garden plants, so we’ve always wondered why these don’t sell nearly as well as they should. 

Hardy Orchids from seed

I was looking at our patch of Bletilla ‘Brigantes’…a hardy orchid hybrid between Bletilla striata and Bletilla ochracea and wondering what its offspring would look like.  I recalled that the late plantsman Don Jacobs grew bletillas from seed in his window sill, so I figured we’d give it a try.  If you’ve never handled orchid seed, it’s a bit like handling tiny dust particles.  We harvested the seed before the pods cracked open and sowed them like we do our fern spores, and sealed them in a ziploc bag.  Sure enough, they germinated, and two years later actually flowered.  These are a sampling of the amazing variation from the 200 seedlings we potted.  We’ll select a good representative sample of the variation including any unique individuals and plant them out in trial beds and watch how they develop.  How exciting!

Magnolia lotungensis flowering at JLBG

Parakmeria lotungensis flower

Here are photos of our lovely specimen of Magnolia (Parakmeria) lotungensis that flowered extremely well this year.  This evergreen magnolia is one of our favorites and has never shown a sign of winter damage here.  Fingers crossed for good seed set.

Iris cristata in flower

Iris cristata Montrose White

The dwarf native woodland iris, Iris cristata are in flower here today.  Iris ‘Montrose White’ was introduced by Montrose Gardens in NC.  Iris cristata is native in shade, but flowers much better when given a couple of hours of sun.

Iris cristata Powder Blue GiantIris cristata ‘Powder Blue Giant’ is incredibly floriferous in the garden today.  These spring flowering groundcovers are just delightful.