As you may have noticed, we’re deep in the season for going on about the Lovliest of Trees, even though these days most flowering cherries appear to be hung with something that looks more like cotton candy than the snow that so moved Housman. Our friend Eric is not immune, and not surprisingly, he has a favorite.
Eric’s Pet Plants
When I first asked my friend Eric to post some of his pet plant reviews here, I did it for two reasons:
1. His taste is somewhat different from mine, and because he’s in charge of a good-sized public greenhouse complex and research garden (Marsh Botanical Garden, at Yale University) his brief is very different indeed.
2. He has an endearing tendency to wander far from horticulture on his way to discussing things like exposure and soil pH. That aspect of his writing has been somewhat in abeyance lately, but on this occasion he has beyond outdone himself. Those who want to (metaphorically) skip directly to the recipe are encouraged to scroll down to the headline: On the Parrotia Itself.
There are a lot of oak trees in the woods around us in Maine, some white oaks, some reds, some still sapling size, some close to majestic. They’re nice in their way (especially when adorned with hen of the woods mushrooms), but they’re almost as much of a nuisance as Norway maples. The acorns root readily almost everywhere they land and thanks to the squrrels they land pretty much everywhere.
In other words, we are already if anything oversupplied with oaks, and until I read about Eric’s Daimyo I felt no need to plant more. But now, I dunno. He does make his tree sound very appealing, and a simple google delivers a lot of enticing images. (Many of them are for Daimyo oak bonsai, who knew?)
Eric doesn’t know this (or didn’t, when he sent this column) but cleomes and I have a long history. My mother always had a good sized stand of them in a bed beside the lawn, and when I was a tot they sort of scared me. The bushy plants were way bigger than I was. The flower stems did seem kind of spidery, and they had hidden prickles that made grabbing unwise. One way and another I failed to see the beauty part.
Being a Maine person, I have a particular interest in lupines, which will be discussed at the end of the post. First, however, the word from Eric, who not surprisingly is fond of them even though he lives in Connecticut. He’s having an open house this weekend, btw, scroll on down for the invitation.
I usually agree with Eric about the plants he chooses as pets, but sometimes we really think as one and this is one of those times. Viburnum carlesii is a must-have shrub if you are moved by fragrance. There are other viburnums with lovelier forms, with handsomer leaves, with added fall interest from bright berries, but no other plant in the genus can hold a candle to its perfume.
Our friend Eric has what sometimes seems like an undue fondness for woody evergreens. But as he mildly points out from time to time, he likes to write about the plants he’s experimenting with as manager of Yale’s Marsh Gardens, and that means a lot of emphasis on plants of special value to Northeasterners. Even though New Haven is quite a bit warmer than our part of the Hudson Valley – or Maine – there’s still a lot of winter to contend with.
I was so pleased when Eric sent this – in my mind, Mahonias are associated with far more clement climates than either of mine. Eric’s place over at Yale IS a lot warmer than it is here, but with a bit of shopping around for a protected spot, it sounds as though I just might be able to plant a clump of these beautiful, fragrant winter bloomers.
Winter is finally upon us. Not counting the stubborn grass and a few stalwart edibles, everything green is common evergreen: juniper, arbor vitae, boxwood, rhododendron…
And almost everything deciduous is down to the bare branches, many of them in need of shaping. What all this is reminding me is that I definitely need some snazzy new material for the string of garden beds that will (next spring) finally be unified into a single sweep of Things That Look Good From Inside The House When Inside Is Where We Are Most Of The Time.
Enter Eric’s excellent suggestion:
Corylopsis pauciflora – earlier than forsythia, far more delicate and FAR more fragrant, to say nothing of better behaved.
Our friend Eric continues to find places to plant new things, in this case a pair of Japanese Hollies that are almost (but not quite, I have to confess) sufficiently dazzling to make me change my mind about randomly variegated plants. But I’m a notorious holdout in this regard. Almost everyone else is bound to be seduced, if not by the picture then by Eric’s description of this plant’s merits, of which there are many besides its looks.