Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hamamelis vernalis 'Blue Moon'

Though it's still winter here in Wisconsin (and many places- when will it end!?) my Vernal Witchhazel is blooming away.  It got a bit of an early start in the storage house.  Of course, not wanting to miss anything I brought it home.  It was outside for about a week, but then the forecast was single digits for overnight lows and it came into the kitchen.  Now it goes back outside, hopefully it's just warm enough for some pollinators as I'd love to grow seedlings.

'Blue Moon' is reportedly a seedling of H. vernalis, but there is some possibility of it being a hybrid.  It's been a moderate grower in its container for me and it will finally find a spot in the landscape this year.  The flowers are a beautiful amethyst-purple and by everything I've read they should be strongly fragrant.  Mine however, is not.  At first I thought it was because of the cold/bronchitis/zombie plague that I'm getting over; but I've gotten at least SOME sense of smell back and there's no scent.  While I'm disappointed by this fact, the flowers are incredibly beautiful and this plant is worth growing just for the flower color!  Hopefully, this is a fluke of the crazy weather we're having and it will be fragrant in the future.  Foliage is a nice blue-green all summer and changes to a beautiful yellow for fall.

For whatever reason, it seems the general gardening community has ignored witch hazels.  Which is unfortunate.  They're often the first thing (or in the case of H. virginiana, the last thing)) to start blooming in my gardens.  They provide color and fragrance at a time when there is very little of both to experience in the landscape.  On top of that, they usually have fantastic fall color in shades of yellow, orange, red, and burgundy.  If you have room for a large shrub, pick one up.  You won't be disappointed!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Aster Evaluation

Symphiotrichum oblongifolium 'October Skies'

I just got done reading the latest plant evealuation notes from Chicago Botanic Garden.  This issue: Asters.  With 116 taxa, this was the largest comparitive evaluation trial they've done to date.  The trial list uses the current nomenclature, which I'm still adapting to.

 I wasn't too terribly surprised by any of the results, except S. lateriflorum 'Lady in Black' getting 5 stars.  This variety had always been short lived for me (2 years or less), in more than one garden situation.  I will apparently have to give it another try.

Symphiotrichum oblongifolium 'October Skies'
Not surprising, and I'm happy to see, five different S. oblongifolium were trialed and all five got four stars or better.  They recommend using these instead of the common S. nova-belgii or S. nova-angliae.  'Raydon's Favorite' got five stars, I'll have to give this one a try.  Not trialed was 'Dream of Beauty', which is a very soft pink variety.  Mine is still fairly new, so no comparison to my 'October Skies' yet, but so far it is very nice.  S. oblongifolium 'October Skies' is my favorite aster so far, despite being a little floppy and needing a grow-through support. 

Eurybia macrophylla 'Alba'

I'm also happy to see Eurybia divaricatus & E. divaricatus 'Eastern Star' getting five stars.  I love white wood aster, and it's highly under-rated.  I'm hoping to add 'Eastern Star' to the catalog in the near future.  The other wood aster to do well was S. drummondi, which received four stars.  We may add this one to the catalog as well in the future.  Another one we'll be adding is E. macrophylla 'Alba', which wasn't trialed.  The natural form of E. macrophylla received a respectable enough three stars.  This lower rating was due to poor rust resistance and all other qualities reported were excellent.  I haven't seen rust on 'Alba' in my garden; it may or may not be more resistant.  I'd love feedback if anyone has had rust problems on it.

There are three asters I haven't grown that I'll now be adding to the gardens.  A. tataricus 'Jindai' got five stars and I've read nothing but good things about it from a number of sources.  A. tongolensis 'Wartburg Star' got four stars and I've seen it a number of times but have never grown it.  S. ericoides 'Snow Flurry' got five stars.  I've seen heath aster in the wild on many occasions and have always liked it. 

Aster ageratoides 'Starshine'
There is one aster I've seen that wasn't trialed here and I've been waiting impatiently to get a hold of.  In July 2010 I toured the Ball Hort trial gardens and saw Aster ageratoides 'Starshine'.  Its habit and bud coverage impressed me immensely.  It's now coming on the market, and I'll be adding it to the garden when I can.