New guys

As always, there is good reason to be anxious for spring, though winter has just begun. While camellias, mahonias, and witch hazels will somewhat satisfy the need for blooms, I am particularly impatient for spring’s growth to see what becomes of this year’s additions.

As I write, before the idea vanishes beneath other inspirations, I sit in the side garden on a cold stone bench on a chilly morning, with a breeze whistling overhead through the treetops. This garden, situated low between hills, is somewhat sheltered, but my stay outdoors will be brief. I have just planted a newly delivered, dark leafed sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus ‘Burgundy Spice’, below). Ordered from North Carolina, the small shrub has not gone completely into dormancy, but of course it will soon recognize that winter has arrived in northwestern Virginia.

This purchase completes a small collection of sweetshrubs (Calycanthus floridus and hybrids, though others might become indispensable), all prominently located, in ranges from nearly full sun to the shade beneath the wide spreading Bigleaf magnolia. One in damp ground struggles, but all others provide pleasant foliage and fragrant flowers. ‘Venus’, ‘Hartlage Wine’ (below), and ‘Aphrodite’ feature larger blooms, and also seem more vigorous than the yellow flowered ‘Athens’ or the species. ‘Burgundy Spice’ has been given prime positioning just to the front of the ‘Yellowbird’ magnolia that recently replaced a long established Blue Atlas cedar in failing health that was removed. In nearly full sun I am curious to see if the sweetshrub’s dark leaves fade in summer’s heat.

This new magnolia and a variegated leafed redbud have encouraged much anticipation for spring in recent weeks, and while mentions of the two must take a rest, certainly both will cover many pages in the spring.

Several ladyslipper orchids (below), planted a year ago, were rescued from a late afternoon sunny exposure, moved to a considerably shadier situation after I took note of yellow flowered natives along a local woodland trails’ edge. Several more ladyslippers were added in the shadow of taller shrubs along a stone path that offered naturally leaf enhanced soil similar to their native habitat. Spring will confirm if these efforts were a success.

Today, the shaded southwestern corner of the house is considerably brighter with the removal of a tall Alaskan cedar and wide spreading English yew. A variegated leafed ‘Celestial Shadow’ dogwood (below), to replace one lost a year ago in the rear garden to flooding rains, will reintroduce deeper shade into this area within a few years, but several perennials preferring shade will get a quick start in part sun.

If this sounds like a year of removal and rejuvenation with the removal of several large evergreens, this was perhaps a year overdue. I am hesitant to make major changes, but once the first step is taken, others naturally fall in line, and while new plantings are a tad bit small, I expect considerable progress to begin in the spring. I am certain that the changes will be for the best.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. rkthuener says:

    You’ll be happy to know that the leaf color of Calycanthus floridus ‘Burgundy Spice’ actually gets more pronounced with more sun. It’s a great plant.

    1. Dave says:

      I’ve read that its color holds in summer, but I’m always skeptical of all claims by breeders until proven by my experience.

  2. That celestial dogwood is amazing. Just put two in this Fall. Can’t wait till Spring. Also going to put in one calycanthus in a woodland area, but which one? Lots of research to do over the winter.

    1. Dave says:

      The variegated leaf color fades somewhat in summer, but Celestial Shadow is an exceptional, and fast growing dogwood. If I had to opt for a single calycanthus it would be Hartlage Wine for a red, and Venus for a white. Both are floriferous and vigorous in growth, more so than the native species.

  3. tonytomeo says:

    There are SO many species of Calycanthus! I thought that our native species was the only one. It really was the only one I ever knew around here.

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