"The Collector's Corner:" Roots and Shoots

By Amy Howansky

Welcome to the Collector's Corner, the first in a series of newsletter columns that will coordinate with a new initiative at the Landis Arboretum.

At our Fall Plant Sale, Director Fred Breglia noticed that an entire corner of the sales area was filled with interesting and eminently collectible plants. He dubbed the area “Collector’s Corner.” We will continue to use the corner during future sales to offer rare and unusual specimens.

Small shrubs for small spaces, for example, could showcase the Weigela florida, ‘My Monet’ that was available at the Spring Plant Sale.

The shrub has bright pink flowers like a traditional Weigela, but grows only 1.5’ – 2’ tall by 1.5 – 2’ wide at maturity. Interestingly, the ‘My Monet’ cultivar also has leaves that are mottled white, green, and pink, thus making it colorful and attractive from spring through autumn, instead of just when the flowers are in bloom.

Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon)
Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon)

Many gardeners enjoy collecting a variety of variegated plants, so we plan to sell and install more plants with colorful splotches. We recently sold a marbled-leaf form of Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) called ‘Sugar Tip.’ It has pale pink flowers with rose-like double petals, green and white variegated leaves, and a smaller-than-normal mature size of 5 – 6’ tall by 4 – 6’ wide.

Still another category for collectors is weeping or contorted plants. At this year’s Fall Plant Sale, we showcased a gracefully-drooping Ginkgo biloba ‘Weeping Wonder’. Approximately half of its leaves are a recognizable fan shape, while the other half are extremely long, narrow, and finger-like. In the autumn, the leaves turn an intense yellow-gold. After the leaves have fallen, the pendulous branches provide continued interest in the winter garden. Look for more weeping, gnarled, or twisted specimens at next year’s plant sales!

Collector’s Corner will also give Landis visitors the opportunity to build a long-term, comprehensive assemblage of many cultivars within one genus or species. Hosta lovers are perhaps the best-known among collectors to enjoy the multi-year process of finding new hybrids of a single genus, but tree and shrub aficionados can also use this accumulative endeavor for almost any genus. Landis Arboretum recently began creating a new Syringa (lilac) area. We then featured many different Syringa cultivars at several plant sales: one type was a dwarf form, one was a hard-to-find color, and one had unusual purple petals with a white edge.

Hydrangea quercifolia, ‘Little Honey’
Hydrangea quercifolia, ‘Little Honey’

Hydrangeas normally have rather bland green leaves that act as a visually neutral, supportive background for the extremely large and colorful flower heads. At the Fall Plant Sale, we showcased Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’, which has common white flowers that get a blush of pink in autumn. The exciting, collectable characteristic of the plant, though, is its bright chartreuse leaves that remain colorful from spring through autumn.

In support of our efforts to educate the public about unusual plants and to give Landis Arboretum members access to rare specimens, we will host a lecture and mini-sale by plant experts from Broken Arrow Nursery on Saturday, June 27, 2020. This retail nursery in Connecticut is well known to collectors for its knowledgeable staff, hybridization programs, and acres of indescribable oddities.

Since Landis Arboretum is known for its oak collection, perhaps we should acquire Broken Arrow’s Quercus robur ‘General Pulaski’ to showcase its strange, puckered, tightly-packed leaves. The tree grows 10’ tall by only 3’ wide at maturity, making it a useful (and unique) columnar plant for tight spaces.

For evergreen admirers, Abies concolor ‘Winter Gold’ is a form of white fir that features bright yellow needles in the dead of winter.

Nyssa sylvatica, ‘Wildfire’
Nyssa sylvatica, ‘Wildfire’

Color-centric gardeners will expect Nyssa sylvatica ‘Wildfire’ to display brilliant scarlet leaf-color in autumn, but will be thrilled with the striking burgundy tones of the new foliage as it emerges in the spring.

The Broken Arrow Nursery event will likely be a full-day affair with options to attend two different lectures and two different pop-up sales. The nursery will also allow members to pre-order plants from its catalogue or website and will bring those items to the event for customer pick-up. More details and registration information will appear in our 2020 Calendar of Events and on our website and Facebook page, in addition to Constant Contact mailings.

Look for this article in future issues to discover what striking and collectible plants we will be offering. The Landis Arboretum is a trusted source for beautiful, hardy, and healthy plants – and the expertise to help you select and care for them.

Fall 2019

Volume 37 , Number 3

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