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Friday, February 1, 2013

Taking A Chance On a Shrub

When it comes to choosing plants for my garden I generally prefer that they be native to Middle Tennessee.  It just makes sense to choose endemic plants for a garden like mine with its shallow clay soil and pockets of impenetrable limestone bedrock. (above Central Basin natives~'Grey Owl' Juniper, River Oats, ex-aster, Hypericum frondosum)

Experience has taught me what will thrive here and what won't. The list of trees, shrubs and perennials that have died in this garden is long and the losses have sometimes been expensive. I remember fondly the stunning Sweet Bay Magnolia's that croaked, the red twig dogwood that hated the hot, humid weather, and the many rhododendrons and azaleas that looked stunning for one season and slowly declined until I yanked them out of my misery. I now know better than to rely on any plants that need constantly moist, well draining soil. No way, no how!

Believe it or not Rhododendron periclymenoides is native to my county and can tolerate dryer soil
On the whole I try to stick with Central Basin natives. They are tough, they don't get root rot in our wet winters or burn up in our dry summers. Sticking with a few simple plant buying guidelines has saved me disappointment and dollars.
Hamamelis vernalis is native to Missouri not Tennessee
Trust me, even with guidelines, I am not plant deprived. It's only when it comes to evergreen shrubs that I feel stuck. We're supposed to have evergreens right! They give the garden color and structure year round. But, finding evergreens that make sense for my garden has been an uphill battle. My garden's sunny areas can support Juniperus virginica 'Grey Owl'. Like the tree form of Red Cedar, "Grey Owl' has a taproot that can grow through the tiniest fissure in the bedrock to find soil. Heck, if you've driven through Middle TN you've seen them growing  straight out of the limestone all along our interstates. 

I love Junipers, but, I wanted other textures, too. So I decided to check out evergreens to see what I could find...and,
Ilicium parviflorum is endemic to Florida. 

Look at what I found~ Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine'.

Isn't it stunning?

I saw it across a crowded nursery and it was plant lust at first sight!  It had big, bold chartreuse leaves that smelled of anise when bruised. They had two, I bought them both!
Chartreuse and purple go well together

Those big bold chartreuse leaves were just what my garden needed. I planted it right in front of a new Callicarpa americana. The purple berries and chartreuse leaves will dance beautifully together next fall.
winter color is nearly parchment
I am so glad I took a chance on 'Florida Sunshine'. It hasn't stopped charming me since it went in last fall. As the weather cooled the leaf color brightened to screaming yellow and now, in the middle of winter the stems are red and the leaves are nearly parchment in color.

The contrast is wonderful.

xxoogail

Dense shrub form to 8' tall by 6' wide, maybe larger in 10+ years.
Winter shade is recommended to reduce leaf burn, add Permatil to clay soils to help with drainage.
Zone 7 (maybe 6) to 9
adaptable to soil type, I will keep the soil slightly acidic


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

32 comments:

  1. What a beauty. No wonder you fell in lust, I mean love. We are now plunged back into the deep freeze. Snow and cold for the weekend. Have a good one.

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  2. Sometimes, we have to break our own rules. Hope this one stays for you. It's gorgeous.

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  3. What a great shrub Gail - I love those coloured stems against the bright leaves. I struggle with "evergreens" as some of them can look so lumpy and dull - but this is a treasure!
    K
    xx

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  4. I love the look of this shrub! I might have to try it since I like to plant evergreens amoung my perennials. I know most Rhodendrons require shade...is this true for your rhododendron? If not, I want to get one. Love your posts!

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    Replies
    1. Christy, Rhododendron periclymenoides is a native azalea that prefers sun to part sun. It will tolerate dryer rocky soil, but probably needs moisture the first years to get stablished. It's a beautiful pink flower and smells divine.

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    2. Thanks Gail! I'm definitely going to find one (or more) of these for my garden!

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  5. Oh wow, oh wow! That is a gorgeous shrub, Gail and is going on my want list right now! You have done so well finding what will grow in your special conditions. Bravo!
    xoxoxo
    Frances

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  6. That one looks like a keeper for you!

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  7. Beautiful! And just goes to show the search is worthwhile.

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  8. I've had good luck with Illicium parvifolium. My soil conditions are a bit different from yours--much more acidic--but I haven't had to coddle it. It seems to cope well with heat and humidity and accepts whatever rain it gets. A great choice.

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  9. It looks pretty! Will give this some thought for my back yard. I'm always looking for new native plants to add to my zone 7-A Garden (as if we can really 'trust' the zone labels??!! It's always worth a shot. I've been trying more and more to get natives from my particular area, too...but sometimes I say, if it's native to north america, somewhere, then it might work here, and I just go for it :)

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  10. I like it. Lighting up the winter darkness. I will enjoy yours until it gets a bit warmer in winter here.

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  11. I'd love for you to post a list of plants that have done well for you. Your conditions sound just like our future property (as you have pointed out in the past).

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    Replies
    1. That's a great idea Phillip...let me begin to compile it.

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    2. Carole in ClarksvilleFebruary 2, 2013 at 3:15 AM

      Lovely plant. Beautiful color and winter interest. Thanks for the very useful suggestion! :)

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  12. That is a beauty. I love that color of leaf.

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  13. I wonder if it will work in Kansas? zone 6 b.

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  14. I really enjoyed the walk through your garden. Thank you for sharing.

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  15. Very nice, I was getting interested until I saw "zone 7". Oh well. I keep telling myself to plant more evergreens, but there are so many deciduous plants I want ... I'm crazy about flowering trees and shrubs. Also there are few evergreens native to this area, not that I limit myself entirely to natives.

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  16. Gail I can see why you had to have it...It would call to anyone with those gorgeous chartreuse leaves.

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  17. I garden in a very challenging site, zone 5 , sand and drought. I agree that my best plants are those that are native to my area. Trying to amend my conditions to suit some woodland lover is like hitting my head against a brick wall.

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  18. At first it looked like a bay but then when I saw the photo of the new shoots I knew it wasnt - what a lovely plant

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  19. Chartreuse is a great color to have in the garden. I have Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) in my garden, which has similar coloring. (By the way, that Witch Hazel shot is beautiful. Is that from someone else's garden or yours?)

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  20. Oh, that's sooo pretty! I'm in zone 7 also, but in Tulsa our summers are not only drought-stricken, but over 100 degrees - wonder if I could chance it? I especially love the contrasts in your first picture - just gorgeous!

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  21. Oooh, I've got one of those! Mine's thriving so far--we'll see how it feels in a few years!

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  22. For a couple years now I have lusted after Illicium, mainly for its anise scented leaves, but here you show it is a beautiful ornamental too. I would have to grow it in a pot and bring it in, as it would not winter here in Connecticut. It is so beautiful, I would consider doing that!

    One thing that has held me back, though, is that the maroon flowers are reputed to be stinky. Really smelly in a very bad way. When yours flowers next season, let us know if that is true of this cultivar. I'm curious.

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  23. Love the bold chartreuse color on Florida Sunshine, very pretty. I have three green ones, they are doing well in the morning sun, afternoon shade spot I have them. I am hoping they grow tall to screen possible neighbors.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
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who make our souls blossom.


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