July 18, 2019

Plant of the Week: Lollipop Malus

National Lollipop Day

Other than helping a bit with laryngitis, I don't think of lollipops as being very useful. They certainly have never satisfied my 4 pm chocolate craving.

But here's a Lollipop® that actually is useful: it's a truly dwarf crabapple tree. It was selected by the breeder because it maintains its neat habit and dwarf (8') form.

Lollipop® Malus is one of seven Proven Winners® ColorChoice® trees available now - with more to come in the future.

Lollipop® crabapple has loads of white flowers that will produce shiny red fruits in fall. Birds and wildlife love them.

This is a useful plant for formal mass plantings or as a well-behaved specimen. Homeowners often want assurances that a plant won't get "too big". Here's one that won't.

It will do best in full sun, and is hardy to USDA Zone 4 (AHS heat tolerance of 8).

Yes, National Lollipop Day is a thing, and it's happening on Saturday

I admit the timing seems a little off. Mid-July is when I'm looking for a frozen treat rather than room temperature candy. Still, I did think it was pretty great when the drive-through bank teller sent a lollipop to me when I was sweltering in the back of my parents' un-air conditioned, vinyl-seated Dodge Coronet.

You can make the day more meaningful by skipping the standard issue sucker and going for an artisan lollipop. I'm the driver now, and maybe I need to keep a stash of these in my air conditioned car for when I'm waiting for my kids to get out of practice.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

July 5, 2019

Plant of the Week: Scentlandia® Itea

North America has some pretty cool plants. Native plants are popular for a lot of reasons, but sometimes it seems like the discussion misses the fact that they would be worthwhile plants even without the bonus of being native.

Itea virginica, or sweetspire, is one such plant. It has lovely fragrant flowers, is adaptable to wet soils and shade, and will reward you in fall with nice foliage color. Who wouldn't want that?

Scentlandia® Itea 
Scentlandia® Itea features exceptionally fragrant flowers and a compact (2-3') habit. Normally, the species can get up to 5' tall, so if you have a smaller space this dwarf selection will be a better fit. Note: Love fragrance? This native beauty made our Top Ten Fragrant Shrubs video.

Scentlandia® Itea fall color
While we consider it to be hardy to USDA Zone 5, it has shown better bud hardiness, which helps it flower better than generic members of the species after harsh winters. If you're toward the northern edge of its zone, you'll like that. Remember that Itea virginica flowers on old wood, so you don't want to prune it back in fall or winter.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

June 27, 2019

Plant of the Week: Dandy Man® Pink Rhododendron

A rhododendron that's hardy, heat-tolerant, and is resistant to root rot? That would be dandy!

And here it is: Dandy Man® Pink Rhododendron. This R. hyperythrum hybrid is attractive, too, with an attractive habit and enticing pink flowers.

Dandy Man® Pink Rhododendron
Dandy Man® Pink rhododendron grows 4-8' tall and wide, and is hardy to USDA Zone 5.

Rhododendron...or azalea? It's complicated.

The easy answer would be something along the lines of that infamous Supreme Court ruling re: pornography: "I know it when I see it." But that's hard to implement in a legal system, and it's just as difficult to use in botany.

For a good description for either subject one needs a very precise description:

"True rhododendrons have 10 or more stamens which is 2 per lobe. Azaleas usually have 5 stamens or 1 per lobe. Azaleas have 5 lobes in a flower.

Azaleas tend to have appressed hairs which is hair parallel to the surface of the leaf. This is particularly true along the midrib on the underside of the leaf. It is easily seen in "evergreen" azaleas. True rhododendrons instead of hair are often scaly or have small dots on the under side of the leaf. Azalea leaves are never dotted with scales and are frequently pubescent."

   - New York Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society

Trust me that a detailed explanation of plant taxonomy is less disturbing that that of pornography. If you need a refresher on flower anatomy, here's a good one. The other, well, you're on your own.

If you'd like something a little hardier, consider Dandy Man® Purple rhododendron, which goes into USDA Zone 4. It, too, grows 4-8' tall and wide as does the newest Dandy, Dandy Man Color Wheel®. All of these plants will grow in full sun or partial shade.

Dandy Man Color Wheel® Rhododendron 
One final note: Rhododendron is toxic to livestock. Rhododendron is also toxic to dogs and cats although they are less likely to consume it than livestock. As it says on the University of Maryland Extension website: "As is the case with most toxic plants, prevention is key." Years ago I got a phone call from a rancher whose cattle had gotten into some Taxus, also toxic. It was terrible. Be safe out there.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

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