…I studied bees, who were able
to convey messages through dancing
and could find their ways
home to their hives
even if someone put up a blockade of sheets
and boards and wire…
Naomi Shihab Nye
Landscape design considerations for attracting pollinators might more recently have been increasingly focused on floriferous herbaceous perennials. At Mount Auburn we include many of those but also know that trees and shrubs are an essential part of our pollinator support. Honeybees, bumblebees, sweat bees, mason bees, mining bees among numerous other types of bees, as well as other kinds of pollinators, are attracted to the expansive cornucopia of blossoms throughout the total growing season within our landscape.(more…)
Horticulture Highlight: Umbrella Magnolia, Magnolia tripetala
I wakened to the singing of a bird;
I heard the bird of spring.
At his sweet note
The flowers began to grow…
-Annie Adams Field
There are multitudinous flowers everywhere in Mount Auburn during the month of May. Early on are trillium, forsythia, spiraea, serviceberry, fothergilla, magnolia, then on to crab apple, lilac, wisteria, finally displaying azalea, amsonia, viburnum, false indigo, tulip tree among many others. While there have been many magnolias in bloom from mid-April on, herein we focus on one of the later flowering species.(more…)
Horticulture Highlight: Red-twig dogwoods, Cornus sericea, Cornus alba
…Everyone longs for love’s tense joy
and red delights…
A sampling of red delights from past Horticulture Highlights could include blossoms of rufous-tinted hellebores, redbud, tree peony, azalea, rose, rhododendron, cardinal flower and mums, with the added autumn foliage of maple, franklin tree, Virginia sweetspire, sourwood, tupelo and fothergilla as a partial list.
However, none of the above provide their “red delight” display during our winters. So we look towards our red-stemmed or red-twig dogwoods, members of the genus Cornus. Many are familiar with America’s springtime flowering dogwood or Asia’s summer flowering kousa dogwood, fewer may also know the indistinctly named cornelian cherry. These three small trees are arborescent members of the botanical genus Cornus which includes far more numerous shrub species. Recent and ongoing taxonomic examinations allow the ambiguous fact stating there are 30 to 60 species within this genus.
None the less, herein we introduce two frequently planted species, each with notable red stem color during winter months, Cornus sericea, redosier dogwood of North America and Cornus alba, Tatarian dogwood from Siberia, Manchuria and northern Korea. Nearly indistinguishable, Michael Dirr, author of the inimitable Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, states therein “…the red-stemmed dogwoods are difficult to separate by winter characteristics especially as small plants and one is never absolute as to which species he/she is purchasing…”. The dominant winter characteristic referred to is a discernable color transformation of their woody stems from a greenish to a blood red, with many cultivated varieties exhibiting varied hues from bright coral to bold crimson to beet-red. All shades of red-twigs are strikingly enhanced when surrounded by snow.
comes out of the sky
like bleached flies.
The ground is no longer naked.
The ground has on its clothes.
The trees poke out of sheets…
There are strong similarities in the appearance of leaves, flowers and fruits of these two species. The branching patterns are opposite as with most members (not all) of this genus. The 2-5-inch-long leaves of both species are smooth-edged (entire margin) with 5-6 pairs of veins curving parallel to the margins. Both provide an attractive reddish-purple fall foliage.
Unlike the large petal-like bracts found on flowering dogwood and kousa dogwood, flowers on these two species as with many other dogwoods appear as small heads of multiple whitish-yellow flowers forming a flat top referred to as a cyme. When successfully fertilized these flowers later develop ½-inch, whitish/slightly bluish fruits (drupes) that are relished by many bird species and hence are not long persistent.
On a winter visit to Mount Auburn look for our Red-twig dogwoods on Story Road, Willow Pond Knoll, Rosebay Avenue, above Narcissus Path, Anemone Path and off Meadow Road.
The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its cultivation. – Thomas Jefferson
Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium is a good example of Jefferson’s (1743-1826) oft-stated opening quote. This plant of contemporary usage was introduced as part of our country’s early botanical exploration.
Today we may add Oregon Grape to a list of more well-known evergreen shrubs such as rhododendron, mountain laurel, yew and pieris. Averaging 3 to 6-feet high and wide, its distinct alternate compound leaves are composed of 5 to 9 shiny, stiff, leaflets, each 1 ½-to-3 ½-inches long with spines on the tip and margin. Bright yellow, slightly fragrant flowers occur in mid-to-late April, about the same time as some of our flowering magnolias and cherries. Later in August-September these flowers may produce dark-blue berries, looking somewhat akin to grapes, hence the common name. Fruits may be used for jellies, wines and were historically part of traditional diets of indigenous Pacific Northwest peoples.(more…)