Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ever green in North Carolina

Prunus mume, an exquisite early-flowering plum,  thrives in the South, where the hot sticky summers are so much like its native Far East, almost ungrowable in England because of fungal diseases,. So unfair!

Don't they just luurve their evergreens in the South?
Am currently in North Carolina doing some lectures, brought here by the Davidson Symposium next week. I last came her 21 years ago, on the my first trip ever to the US. Its one one of those places which is a real gardening hot-spot. At the weather feels like home - cold - but the camellias are flowering well, and that's what reminds you that you are in the South. Look more closely, and you see lots of of evergreens. They are a big part of the garden culture here. Partly I suppose its because there are some very good native evergreens here, such as Magnolia grandiflora and M. virginiana, some good hollies including the charmingly named Ilex vomitoria. Partly also I suppose its a mark of distinction - most evergreens get treated very badly by the weather north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Buxus sempervirens 'Dee Runk'

Box, or boxwood as the natives so quaintly call it, has always been grown from, and often grown in a different way to the way Europeans treat it - it hasn't always been clipped, but sometimes allowed to grow free; I remember years ago visiting the Cathedral Garden in DC and seeing box 'grown loose', and rather liking it. If you always clip box you are not actually going to be that interested in what shapes it adopts naturally, whereas if you let it loose, then the shape is going to be very important. So people here started collecting and selecting different cultivars, so there has always been much more awareness here than back home of the genetic diversity of box.
Arbutus unedo 'Elfin King'. Whoever named this was a bit optimistic about it being dwarf, but the leaves are very distinctive.

One place I was really confronted with the incredible diversity of evergreens available here, and indeed of woody plants generally (try and find a nursery that does an interesting range of woodies in Britain now) was Camellia Forest Nursery, where Bri Gluvna Arthur had invited me to drop in. I didn't go to see camellias, which quite honestly, if I wanted a flower like a piece of soap I'd buy the soap. Polytunnel packed with loads of plants which i have never heard of - which always gets me excited, especially since most of them would be growable back home: Distyllum, Eurya, Gordonia, Schima, Serissa, then loads of species of genera where we have only a limited selection back home like Osmanthus and Illicium, or general we really couldn't grow outside like Gardenia  and Cinnamomum.
Ilex 'Carolina Sentinel' - a very nice upright-growing holly. The hollies here are wonderful.
Then to be fair to Camellia, BTW, of which there are 100+ species, there were some wonderful camellias here. I've always loved 'Cornish Snow' with little white single flowers, many of the species look like that, but with many different variations in their foliage: nice n'smelly C. odorata, C. fraterna and many more.
Not just a nice smell - Gardenia augusta 'Michael'
Would you believe it, this is a camellia - C. sasanqua 'Silverado'.
While a lot of evergreens were showing signs of winter stress, boxes in particular, this shrub (trained as a standard) looked incredibly fresh and unfazed; I was very impressed by the quality of the foliage, it's an intergeneric hybrid involving Raphiolepis and Eriobotrya (loquat) - x Raphiobotrya 'Conda'.

Another chance to appreciate the southern love of evergreens, and the incredibly adventurous US nursery industry is the Paul C. Ciener Botanic Garden where I did my first lecture of this little tour. The botanic garden isn't there yet, but it will be; they have a car park and a very nice building, and the first plantings, a plan, and what looks like the ability to pull in sponsorship and achieve things. Horticulturalist Adrienne Roethling has got the enviable job of gardening the place into existence, she worked for Plant Delights Nursery for 8 years ("we call it graduate school round here" Bri Arthur says), so almost every plant is one which is new on me, and all incredibly well-labelled. Its all a very good start to what should be an exceptional small-town botanic garden. Kernersville is a lucky place.
Look! the agave has impaled that SUV! If only. The car park at the Ciener Botanic Garden. Notice the kerb insets for sempervivum.
Euphorbia rigida, in the planting above, good early colour, and superior to myrsinites. Must get it.
A great idea planting up the border between the fence and the sidewalk.The hell-strip though is going to take some more determined plant selection though. Yucca rostrata is clearly visible, and its soft enough not to risk impaling small dogs.
There will be a garden here one day.
And it will look like this!


Nic said...

You are right - evergreens really are the South's mark of (horticultural) distinction, even if we still get a fair number of them here in coastal New England. Also, I never realized that our calling box "boxwood" comes across as quaint to people from other parts of the English-speaking world. Though I guess even we often shorten it to "box" in compounds like "box hedge".

Maureen said...

I love evergreens and keep them in planters on my deck so there is always something alive throughout all the seasons.

Gineen said...

I wish I lived in an ever-green wonderland. Instead I am in white-out wonderland... We've only had white on the ground for the last few months... No green in sight, maybe a pine here and there :)

Katy said...

I am excited for the new garden project to be finished soon, but it seems like the plants have been growing really well. I love the Prunus mume plants! Its flowers look like cherry blossoms!

Katy Eagles

Kaveh Maguire said...

Love that Agave. Looks like a nice specimen of Agave ovatifolia.
And that looks like it is going to be a sweet little botanical garden. Going from Google Maps overhead view it looks like the pattern garden is already in and pretty neat looking.

christine said...

It is so nice to see green trees without snow and brown grass.
I would love to live where you do as winter is so long and we really do not have a Spring.
Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful pictures