Some plant genera are so diverse that you scratch your head wondering how they put them together. (Okay, originally they put them together based largely on floral parts and other obvious physical characteristics, enabling one to “key” out a plant. Now, plants are moved about based on DNA.)
Viburnums are, or were, part of the Caprifoliaceae family whose defining characteristics include opposite leaves with swollen nodes. Now, based on DNA, Viburnums are in the family Adoxaceae, which I’ve never even heard of – maybe it is newly created – and I certainly have no idea what its common floral characteristics are. From a plant id point of view, basing what family a plant is in on commonly visible floral characteristics is great, basing it on DNA doesn’t really tell me diddly.
I digress. V. rhytidifolium or leatherleaf viburnum is evergreeen and hardy to a surprising Zone 5, although Dirr says it may die back to the ground in “severe” winters. It may be hardy but it definitely can get petulant. Last year, the long run of frost and cold in January left mine with an unhappy, hangdog appearance (see photo above): leaves limp and turned every which way. Even the cold of the last few days has caused it to drop leaves and droop. Still, it’s a plant I like, partly because it is uncommon, partly because at least in its youth it tends to stay fairly narrow and partly because the leaves are an excellent contrast for a host of other plants.
VIBURNUM RHYTIDIFOLIUM FAST FACTS
- Likes fairly deep shade to sun although in hotter climes it definitely wants some shade and water
- Here in Seattle, they seem pretty drought tolerant once established but perhaps mine would be happier in the winter cold if I treated it better in the summer drought.
- 10-15′ x less wide to begin with, seeming to gain girth at the expense of height as they get older.
- Large, rough leaves -dark green on the top, whitish below – make a nice textural contrast with finer leaved plants
- Small but abundant flowers held in flat cymes for a showy effect. Flowers in spring but sets buds in late summer to fall so it adds some winter interest.
Looking for something other than mulch to go under that well-known water hog, the Western red cedar? Try the native Paxistima myrsinites. It can take sun or shade and can handle even the nastiest of dry shade. Read more »
Confederate jasmine, 3/26/2013
A plain green vine cloaking a fence in March – ho hum. Confederate jasmine is ho hum most of the year but not a bad ho hum. A vine that hides ugly fences, comes through at least this mild winter well-clothed in pristine leaves (no ugly black spots) and flowers well in at least some shade is not a bad plant, but you don’t grow Trachelospermum jasminoides for its evergreen leaves. You grow it for its divine, carrying, summertime fragrance – anything else it give you is just gravy.
For more on Confederate jasmine, check out thispost – August, If only the internet was scratch and sniff.
Louise Beebe Wilder (who died in 1938) wrote of snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) saying that she’d seen them force their way upward in mid-winter, “through solid ice and blossom, each surrounded by a tiny melted circle in the ice as if the chill little blossoms emanated a slight warmth before which the frigid element must needs give way.” I believe if I lived in a harsher climate, I would better appreciate these tough little beauties. Read more »
Fuchsia magellanica 1/27/2013
Fuchsia magellanica. It blooms and blooms and blooms and then it is dead. Not actually dead but dormant and of an ugliness surpassed by few plants that haven’t been badly pruned. The moral of course, is to plant Fuchsia magellanica where a bunch of sticks going every which way won’t be a blight on the winter garden.
In the right winter light, the branches of Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ glow. This photo was not taken in such light but the tree is still pretty eye-catching. Read more »
Koelreuteria paniculata, golden rain tree, 11/5/2012
I keep liking this tree more and more. The big seedpods, rather than looking ratty as I’d feared, give this tree a reddish glow in early November. I wanted to say “autumnal umber glow” but when I checked, the umber in my head didn’t agree with the color the all-knowing internet showed as umber. Read more »
Prunus laurocerasus limbed up
Cherry laurels are reviled and I admit that the full-sized version (Prunus laurocerasus) can be supremely annoying. They are often planted as hedges in Seattle. A plant that wants to reach 15-30′ wide being used as a hedge on anything smaller that an estate is criminal. I had one. It engulfed stairs, other plants and small children whenever you looked the other way. Prune, prune, slave, slave and not even great flowers to cut for the house. Cherry laurel hedges always win. Read more »
In April I wrote about hardy cyclamen, the little sweeties that are so tough they can even live among the drought ridden soil beneath conifers. In April, only the leaves were on show, now things look a little different. Read more »
Fuchsias were one of the first plants I grew – not the hardy kind but the kind you get in baskets or little 4″ pots at the grocery store. I worked at a nursery and got one for free and I thought the bi-colored pink and purple blooms were the coolest thing in the world. It bloomed all summer, really bloomed, not just a few paltry flowers here and there. Read more »