Few disappointments

Brilliant red berries of hollies are often taken for granted, in particular those on evergreens with a dense green backdrop that do not stand on bare stems through the early winter months (Ilex koehneana, below). My colorblindness lessens the contrasting reds and greens from a distance, and perhaps a recently acquired yellow berried holly will stand out more, if only because its novelty will encourage detours for closeup views on my frequent tours through the garden.

While one holly or the other might occasionally disappoint with a lesser show of berries, the display is quite predictable. An ill timed period of cold while hollies are flowering in early spring might discourage pollinating bees, but the hollies with longer exposure to warming sunlight rarely go without pollination, and thus berries by late summer.

I am thrilled to have the Seven Son tree (Heptacodium miconioides, above and below) back in the garden. The clusters of white flowers followed by reddish bracts are a perfect remedy to distract from the slow decline of the garden in late summer. I was quite disappointed when a densely branched Seven Son snapped at the ground in a summer storm several years ago. I fully expected the vigorous tree to sprout new stems from the roots, but none appeared, doubling my disappointment.

Bracts of Seven Son tree in late September.

Immediately, I searched for a replacement, but no substantial sizes were available to plant in this mature area of the garden. Instead, after much deliberation, a Red Horse Chestnut (Aesculus x carnea, below) was planted, not so similar a tree in its growth habit, but one that has become prized despite the disfiguring spotting of its foliage in late summer. Someday it could (will) grow too big, but I’ve moved things around before, so this is nothing new.

Still I considered the Seven Son. But, where would another be planted? There is little space for additional trees, but no Seven Son of acceptable size could be found. Until a year ago, when a more compact growing cultivar ‘Temple of Bloom’ was introduced, and several became available in a three gallon pot. Not ideal, but good enough. Where would it go? The motivated gardener will find a way, so a bit of juggling, transplanting and pruning was done to open a spot. Not a big one, but I think ideal for this smaller growing Seven Son.

Next, the problem became how to turn the wide spreading shrub with a tangle of horizontal branches into a tree, and beyond the wait for small trees to grow, this is part of the reason for my preference for planting larger trees. Several bamboo stakes were placed, with the few elongated branches from spring’s growth then tied into a rough configuration of a three trunked tree. Several weeks ago, to my surprise and delight there were clusters of white flowers, and now red bracts as the blooms are fading.

My disappointment has turned to elation. The Seven Son has a ways to grow, but again the garden has one, and a Horse Chestnut too.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Linus says:

    Who’s the vendor for the 7 sons tree? Can you post a picture of the whole plant next time?

    1. Dave says:

      Small numbers of 3 and 7 gallon Seven Sons have been brought into our Landscape nursery, not the garden centers since there is little demand for this uncommon tree.

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