A Woody Wish List

A Woody Wish List

Guest Author: Barbara Smit

Inspired by the motto fall is for planting, I have been pondering my woody plant wish list. The release of the 2013 Plant Sale Handbook has made my daydreaming so much richer, with so many details on culture, habit, and description right at my fingertips. I am intrigued!

The perky pink blooms of Camellia 'Winter's Charm'. photo credit: D. Mattis

I won’t rhapsodize about the seven hardy camellia cultivars on the list. The fact that they are glossy, evergreen, glorious in bloom, and previously perilous to plant in our region should be enough.

Bell-shaped blooms of Clematis 'Rooguchi'. photo credit: J. Coceano

Nor will I go on about the 16 clematis cultivars Jeff Jabco talked about in the summer Hybrid.  Smaller, easy to prune, and suitable for containers: a whole new avenue of delight.

The red-orange July through August blooms of Rhododendron prunifolium. photo credit: C. Sawyers

Instead I want to talk about Rhododendron prunifolium. I have a weakness for red-orange; or is it orange-red?  It’s native, blooms in July-August, and has a lovely, tiered branching habit.  Considered one of the rarest azaleas in the eastern United States, it is found naturally along stream banks and in ravines mostly in Georgia. It’s hardy here and you can see it in the Sibbett Garden near the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater (handbook p. 27).


Eleutherococcus sieboldianus 'Variegatus' is a dry shade woody with great color interest. photo credit: R. Maurer

I am not driven entirely by flights of fancy; I can be practical, too. My garden is deep in dry shade.  It’s not an uncommon “problem” around here.  So on page 51 of the handbook, under “Dry Shade — Woody”, is Eleutherococcus sieboldianus ‘Variegatus’. This mouthful of a plant is “tough” and “hardy”.  Just what I need! The height will add a little interest to an otherwise tired formula of ground covers under mature trees, and the variegation will light up those dark corners.


The white blooms and variegated leaves of Daphne x transatlantica 'Summer Ice'. photo credit: R. Maurer

Then while in the E section, I meandered into D, where I spotted Daphne x transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’.  I’ve read that guests can smell the divine scent from 20 feet away! I’ve seen ‘Carol Mackie’ in catalogs, but ‘Summer Ice’ is one of the longest-blooming, easiest to grow daphnes. Next to the front porch, I think.  You can see its lovely blooms in the Harry Wood Garden now. The beauty of the Scott Associates Plant Sale is all the knowledge behind the selection of plants offered. And it’s coming up soon: I only have to wait until September 20th.

Barbara Smit is a domestic roadie whose latest assignment has been to move and settle the Neil Smit Show in Philadelphia.  With an undergraduate degree in Zoology and graduate school in international economics, naturally she had a brief career as a technical writer and editor in aerospace and computers.  Then came the semi-perfect two boys (safely out of the home) and a succession of interesting dogs and world travel.  She is an avid and somewhat dangerous amateur gardener who loves the beneficial climate of the region and the horticultural latitude they afford.  Barbara and Neil live in Gladwyne with their latest dog personality, Ulli.

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