This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info: guerinw@gmail.com

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Yellow Allium, Fringe-tree and Calycanthus: three winners for mid spring


The cheery yellow allium in flower right now is the favorite in my garden. It is the rock solid Allium moly. Readily available, well-behaved (I think) and growable in shade, it will brighten up any corner, border or nook. I have a half dozen patches. I don't quite recall how many I had last year, but certainly they weren't as full as they are this year. My reading tells me it will colonize but is not overly aggressive. That's my kind of allium.

This year I tossed out my straight Calycanthus floridus (Carolina allspice) and replaced it with the hybrid Calycanthus x raulstonii "Heritage Red." Now that your attention has been firmly grabbed, let me flush out the details. Calycanthus is a shrub that I know from Smokey Mountains where it is quite common. All parts are (usually) mildly fragrant, as are the flowers which emit a fruity blend of pineapple, banana and strawberry aromas. Usually. If you have a good specimen. Which I didn't. In fact I don't even recall ever planting the thing.

But I do recall planting the Chinese version, Calycanthus chinensis, which has flowers that look like over-easy fried eggs. It wasn't particularly pretty, and visitors were unimpressed by the novelty, so I added this one to the compost pile as well.

This year I brought in a hybrid which reunites the two distant (counted in miles) cousins. Nice flowers! Disappointing fragrance (virtually none). Nice round compact form.

Did I say round compact form? Certainly true of the nursery-pruned specimen in year 1. I will have to see how well it behaves in year 2 and beyond. Nichols Arboretum has a huge spreading patch of the native species, a patch as large as a quarter of my entire garden. And the Missouri Botanical Garden describes its habit as "thicket-forming, multi-stemmed, (and) suckering." If it gets out of hand, I think I will do without Calycanthus. But for now, all is fine thank you!

Hard to take a worthy full picture of our native fringe-tree Chionanthus virginicus because the flowers are so fleecy. I try every year. The tree remains a real stand-out in the garden -- even the UPS delivery person asked about it. Would I love it so much if it were as common as the crabapple? Probably not. Analagously, I'm sure I would be a huge fan of honeylocust if it weren't so ubiquitous.

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