August 16, 2019

Plant of the Week: Pink Chiffon® Hibiscus

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles


It's warm - perfect for beaches and barbecue. And Hibiscus syriacus.

Pink Chiffon® H. syriacus habit
Rose-of-Sharon is beautiful right now, flowering happily when many other plants are kind of tired. What color do you want? Blue, white, purple? How about pink?

Pink Chiffon® H. syriacus is a delightful plant, charming even those of us who aren't partial to the color. The large blooms hit just the right part of pink: bright enough to stand out in the garden yet not disruptive.

Pink Chiffon® H. syriacus bloom

Like other H. syriacus, Pink Chiffon® grows best in full sun. It will get 8-12' tall and 6-10' wide, and is hardy to USDA Zone 5. It is one of several outstanding varieties brought to us by plant breeder Dr. Roderick Wood. His selections all have large, unique flowers and a full, graceful habit. They are much more appealing in containers than older varieties.

In addition to having abundant late summer flowers, rose-of-Sharon is a durable plant that will tolerate some challenging conditions. Heat, drought, clay soil - even deer in most areas don't bother it.

Get ready to celebrate!

August 18 is this Sunday, and it's a day to celebrate. Why? I'll give you two good reasons: it's the day U.S. women gained the right to vote in 1920, and it's the anniversary of the first plant patent! Wow!

The first plant patent was issued to New Jersey resident Henry Bosenberg in 1931 for the 'New Dawn' rose. Since then, thousands of plant patents have been granted. Breeding a new plant is no different than any other creation, and protecting intellectual property like songs, books, and yes, plants, is a critical element in our economy.

As exciting as plant hunting can be, it's a lot of work. It takes time, dedication, and attention to detail. And don't you think the person who spends years breeding a better hydrangea deserves both credit and compensation?

So how will you celebrate plants and women's suffrage? Buy a lady a plant! And cake! Wine, too, if she's old enough to enjoy it. After all, you only need to be 18 to vote. And if you know a young lady who's turning 18 soon, remind her to register to vote. (Young men, too).

August 2, 2019

Plant of the Week: Blue Diddley® Vitex

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Vitex agnus-castus is a plant with a history.

The common name is chaste tree, which should clue you in to some of the folklore around it. Yes, its berries were believed to help monks keep their thoughts pure.

Conversely, it has a long tradition in folk medicine for helping women with reproductive system issues.

More recently it is valued simply as an ornamental, particularly in southern areas where lilacs don't do well - it has a similar flower color. Vitex also has pretty good deer resistance and salt tolerance.

Blue Diddley® Vitex

Blue Diddley® is a compact version of chaste tree. While traditional varieties can get large, even grow to be a small tree, Blue Diddley® maxes out at about 6'.

In colder climates, Vitex agnus-castus is like Buddleia and behaves more like a perennial. It's considered hardy to USDA Zone 5 as a dieback shrub, and will be a shrub in Zone 7 and warmer. Zone 6? Well, I guess it will depend on the winter. Check with your local extension service to see if it's suitable for your area.

Either way, it's an interesting addition to a sunny bed or border. Just make sure the soil is well-drained.

True blue

What is it with blue flowers? People seem obsessed with them. I suppose it's the human tendency to want what we can't have, and blue is rare in the botanical world. It's rare in all of nature, actually.

Let's Dance® Blue Jangles®
Hydrangea macrophylla

Yet we want blue hydrangeas (even in unrealistic climates), blue roses, etc. And given a genus with a fighting chance of producing a blue flower, like Syringa, people ask for yellow. (Why? Has that ever ended well? The answer is no.)

Here's a quick video to share with all of your friends who ask about blue flowers. People ask, we listen. Except for the yellow lilac thing.

July 25, 2019

Plant of the Week: Emerald Envy® Viburnum

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

The Emerald City is on my mind right now because I'm headed to Seattle this week for the Association of Professional Landscape Designers International Design Conference. It should be a great time! If you're not going you might be green with envy...

The event gives me an excuse to talk about a really handsome Viburnum: Emerald Envy®. It's a very nice selection of Viburnum x rhytidophylloides (same species as 'Alleghany') with a dense, compact habit.                                                       

Emerald Envy®  Viburnum
Sure, Emerald Envy® has nice white flowers in spring, but the reason I like it is its rich green foliage. There's a bit of a sheen to the leaves that's quite enticing.

Emerald Envy®  Viburnum flowers

An appealing habit in a container is pretty great, too. Let's face it, many Viburnum look a little awkward in a pot. But Emerald Envy® is a plant that invites you to come and get a closer look at it.

Hardy to USDA Zone 6, this deer-resistant plant will grow 6-8' tall and adapt to either sun or part shade.

Another awesome plant geek event is happening next week, too!

There's a pretty amazing tour going on in August as part of the International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS). The IPPS Eastern Region Michigan Area Meeting is Thursday, August 8 at the Dow Gardens:

Here's the schedule:

  • 9:00-9:30 - Registration with coffee and donuts. Meet in Visitor Center first.
  • 9:30-9:45 - Welcome by Chuck Martin, Senior Horticulturist, Dow Gardens.
  • 9:45- 11:30 - Tour of the Whiting Forest. The nation's longest canopy walk, orchard with over 75 varieties of apples, creek restoration project, and much more.
  • 11:30-12:30 - Erik Runkle, Michigan State University Professor/Floriculture Extension Specialist will speak about supplemental lighting and the use of LEDs during propagation.
  • 12:30-1:30 - Lunch break.
  • 1:30-2:00 - Bob Kuszmaul, owner of D&B Plants, will speak about trends in the nursery/propagation industry.
  • 2:00-4:00 - Tour of the Dow Gardens. Experience a dazzling 110 acre display of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees punctuated by distinctive bridges, an award-winning children's garden, towering pines, and delightful water features.

But wait - there's more! For anyone who wants to stick around once the meeting ends, you and your family are invited to the home of IPPS-ER Board member and meeting organizer, Chuck Martin, for hot dogs and burgers along with yard games.

The cost of this fabulous event is just $35. Attendee family members may attend for $25 each to include admissions and lunch. Family road trip!

Note: You do not need to be a member of IPPS to attend. Students, interns and employees are welcome!

Register here by August 5.

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Plant of the Week: Emerald Envy® Viburnum

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles The Emerald City is on my mind right now because I'm headed to Seattle this week for ...