The Latest Plants Louis Is Loving
'Tokyo Tower' Fringetree
I had delayed welcoming fringetree to my garden because the straight species is often a wide ornamental tree, not a shrub. But this Tokyo Tower cultivar is a godsend for any garden already dense with beauties: It’s a slender column in adolescence, and may never grow wider than four to six feet.
Even I have room for a pair, flanking one of the garden’s crosswalks. Without concern over too-big maturity, I can concentrate on the tree's pristine, profuse spring flowers and, in time, striking upright habit.
The Best Season Ever: Spooner's Clematis in Bloom
A huge clematis with many hundreds of pristine white flowers in spring? Bring it on!
After many years, my actual experience with this one has been more, hmm, nuanced. The progress report:
The Best Season Ever: White-flowered Enkianthus in Bloom
Seven years ago, I introduced white-flowered enkianthus via this particular specimen—but in late October, when its burgundy fall foliage was the show. Spring is the time to celebrate this species' namesake thrill: white flowers.
Here in New England, they are one of early May's many elegant flourishes: showy but not shameless, and striking in their pale absence of color. None of the ruddy pink typical of the far-more-familiar "red"-veined enkianthus here.
The Best Spring Ever: Gold-leaved Chinese Stachyurus, in Full Foliage
Gardening is all too much about failures: the plants that die, that disappoint, that invade, that flop—or, in a damningly existential tragedy, even at their best prove not to be worth the space, time, and effort.
What saves this gardener's soul is the plants that surprise, that persist, that obey, that behave—or, in a thrillingly existential triumph, prove to be worth all possible space, time, and effort even when success is only partial.
The former are—or should be—unavoidable. If you're not killing at least some of your plants regularly, you're experiments aren't big enough. Ouch. I keep sane by maximizing the latter: In the face of all the failures, I seek out victories of any size or degree.
Here's my victory with Chinese stachyurus. Did the shrub merelysurvivethis past hateful winter? No. It did not just limp over spring's warm-then-warmer finish line into the new season's supportive embrace. It burst into leaf to the tips of its stems.
True, it didn't flower—usually the whole reason for growing the shrub. Perhaps next year. Meanwhile, with this rare gold-leaved cultivar, merely being alive is joy enough, because it's evidenced by such leaves, such stems.
The Best Season Ever: Hardy Orange Topiary in Bloom
Here in New England, any citrus that is hardy decade by decade is a head-spinner, a miracle. Beyond the thrill of such ongoing vivacity, there are seasonal star turns such as fall foliage, orange fall fruits, and—if the tree is trained as topiary—shapely habit in winter and early spring. Plus the spring flowers: pure white sparkles, like a freak late snow.
Topiary needs close pruning, which precludes most of the flowers. The highest ball is still so young and small, though, that I'm letting it grow free-range to bulk up more quickly. Free-range, it also flowers, well, freely—and in striking contrast to the balls below. Is this hybrid training strategy—free up top, pruned below—how this topiary of hardy orange can have its floral cake and eat it, too?