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[ Japanese Pagoda Tree (Sophora japonica) | Posted on September 18, 2018 ]

This Japanese or Chinese Pagodatree or Scholar-tree is actually native to China and Korea. It is a fast growing tree of 2 to 3 feet/year that is similar to the American Black Locust. The alternate leaves are 6 to 10 inches long with 7 to 17 opposite leaflets that only get a poor yellowish-green fall color. It bears creamy-white, mildly fragrant pea-like flowers in 6 to 12 inch long panicle clusters in July into August. The fruit is 3 to 8 inch long pods, constricted between the seed, that begin green to yellowish to finally brown. It suffers some from cankers, powdery mildew, and leaf hoppers. Its gray-brown bark is very plain. When it is a young tree it looks good for some years, but in time it gets more unkempt. It is a weak-wooded and messy tree by dropping lots of twigs and branches and pods, the latter often staining sidewalks green. There are a lot of this species planted in street wells and in parkways along the streets of Philadelphia, PA, and its suburbs; sometimes it is a lawn tree. I have not really seen it in my native Chicago, Illinois area, but there is one nursery listed as selling it in the Ornamental Growers Association of Northern Illinois nursery guide. I thought for years it had a Zone 6 hardiness.

[ Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) | Posted on September 18, 2018 ]

Autumn-olive is native to China, Korea, and Japan and I wish it would have been left there because it is such an invasive plant in much of the US in the Midwest, the South, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Northeast. It does have pretty foliage that is dark green above and silvery below. It does have pretty funnel-shaped, silvery white, with some yellow, flowers that are very fragrant in late May-early June. The red fruits are actually full of anti-oxidants. It starts off being a pretty shrub when young, but it becomes large, messy, and ugly in time, and it has sharp branch spurs that really hurt if one bumps into them. I am happy to kill off any out in the wild on land preserves when I work to get rid of Eurasian invasive plants in such places to help the native species. I don't know of any regular conventional nurseries selling this species, though a few cheap mail order nurseries do, especially the cultivar of 'Cardinal' that bears more fruit than the mother species.

[ Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) | Posted on September 18, 2018 ]

This small tree from southern Europe through western Asia and central Asia once was somewhat commonly planted in the Chicago, Illinois area in the 1960's into the 1980's for its pretty silver-gray foliage. However, most trees would live about 15 to 20 years and then die from canker disease and/or Verticillium Wilt. Nurseries in the area discontinued growing it, and this happened across much of the humid eastern side of the country. It is native to dry regions and it does not thrive in humid regions. It is not a good quality tree anyway. We professional horticulturists considered it as a cheap, planted weed tree. I don't know of this Silverberry Russian-olive escaping cultivation in the Midwestern or Eastern US, though her shrubby sister, the Autumn-olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) from East Asia does that a lot and is a very invasive plant. During my last visit to Chicagoland, I saw just a few of this species still around, and I have seen a very few in southeast Pennsylvania. I am surprised to see any. There may be a few cheap mail order nurseries selling it. I'm sure it does much better out in the drier Western US where it probably is an invasive Eurasian plant.

[ Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata) | Posted on September 18, 2018 ]

The Japanese Tree Lilac is a handsome, clean, neat small tree either single-trunked or with a few trunks. It has a pretty purplish-brown shiny bark that is cherry-like until it gets old and develops gray-brown scaly bark. It bears large clusters of creamy white, fragrant flowers in late may or early June. The fragrance, though, is sort of privet-like and not as good as the Common Lilac. It develops a good yellow to orange fall color. It grows about 1.5 feet/year and lives probably around 100 years. It is sold at most large conventional nurseries in the Midwest and East USA. It is used more by landscape architects and designers than homeowners, but there still is a fair amount of use by homeowners when they are introduced to the tree in a nursery. A lot of people still don't know this species. I would say it is used more in the Midwest than in the Mid-Atlantic Region. There are several cultivars being used, with 'Ivory Silk' as the most common one.

[ Devil's Beggartick (Bidens frondosa) | Posted on September 17, 2018 ]

To me, this is a pretty weed that is common and native in eastern North America in damp ground, fields, waste places, forest edges, and in landscapes and gardens. It gets nasty when its fruit of an achene (a sunflower kind of dry fruit) with two barbs on one end matures and gets attached to fur, feathers, or clothing of animals or people passing by touching it. That is how its seeds are spread. It grows to be 1 to 4 feet high. There are green leafy bracts around the dull yellow flower head. This member of the Aster or Daisy or Sunflower Family (Asteraceae or Compositae) does have the disc florets in its composite flower head but no ray florets. (The ray florets are the large yellow petals on a sunflower while the disc florets are the tiny brown center flowers.) The stalked leaves are divided into 3 to 5 lance-shaped, toothed divisions. It is easy to pull out of the ground, hopefully when the fruit is not mature.

[ Yellow Wax Bells (Kirengeshoma palmata) | Posted on September 14, 2018 ]

My biggest customer has one specimen of this species in her diverse landscape in a partially shady, moist place with Hosta. It is native to Japan, Korea, and northeast China. The genus name of Kirengeshoma comes from the Japanese language of Ki = yellow, Renge = lotus flower, and Shoma = hat.

[ Common Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) | Posted on September 13, 2018 ]

The European Privet as a species was used a good amount in the northern US like some other privets to be a sheared hedge. Its 1 to 2.5 inch long leaves are more pointed and narrow than the Asian species and they are dark green and of thick texture. The 1 to 3 inch long white clusters of flowers are terminally borne. The 1/3 inch wide black berry is shiny. The young twigs are green and minutely pubescent. I think this species has the best foliage in the North USA. The species is susceptible to the Privet Anthracnose Blight of Glomerella cingulate that damages foliage and twigs and causes cankers, so it was dropped from the trade. However, the newer cultivar of 'Cheyenne' that came from seed collected in Yugoslavia and introduced into the trade from the Cheyenne Field Station is the most commonly planted privet used now in the Chicago area and the upper Midwest.

[ Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) | Posted on September 13, 2018 ]

The so-called California Privet comes from Japan. Its 1 to 2.5 inch leaves are dark green and glossy above and are wider in proportion than most other privets and both ends of the leaf are pointed. The foliage can be evergreen or semi-evergreen in milder climates during milder winters; otherwise, deciduous. Its 1/3 inch black berries are shiny. The white flower clusters are still stinky, but get to 4 inches long and are terminally borne. This species is mostly used in USDA Zones 6 & 7 & 8, and is commonly sold and planted in the Mid-Atlantic and the upper South. It is used used as a sheared hedge.

[ Privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium) | Posted on September 13, 2018 ]

The Border privet comes from Japan and has been commonly planted in the northern US. This species grows in the most broad, horizontal habit among privets that can actually be called graceful. The 1 to 2.5 inch leaves are medium to dark green and not glossy. The twigs are green and very hairy when young. The black fruit is dull. The flowers and fruit are borne in an axillary manner, not terminal. It is still used as a sheared hedge.

[ Privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium subsp. obtusifolium) | Posted on September 13, 2018 ]

This Amur Privet from northern China and southeast Siberia, and named after the Amur River between China & Siberia, was the most commonly planted privet species in the Chicago area from the early 1900's until the 1980's. It has been mostly replaced there by the 'Cheyene' European Privet that has handsomer foliage. There still are some old hedges of Amur privet there, including my old neighbours across the street in the west suburbs of Chicago. It is only offered by a few nurseries and some mail order nurseries as Four seasons Nursery in Bloomington, IL. It is very little different than a few other species of east Asian privet species, as the Border and California Privets, both from Japan. It has the typical about 1 to 2.5 inch long leaves, that are dull green. The twigs are purplish and hairy when young. The black fruit is dull black. The flowers and fruit are borne in auxiliary manner, not terminally. Like the other privets, not a good ornamental shrub, but works well as a sheared hedge.

[ Japanese Spirea (Spiraea 'Anthony Waterer') | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

'Anthony Waterer' is the old standard cultivar that is still the most commonly used selection. Most nursery catalogs list it under Spiraea x bumalda, which is a hybrid between the Pink Japanese Spirea (S. japonica) x the White Woodland Spirea (S. albiflora). Many botanists have recently combined S. albiflora into the S. japonica species. Therefore, AW can be listed in arboretums and botanic gardens as a S. japonica. This cultivar has larger flattish clusters about 4 to 6 inches across that are often bright pink, though I have ones with dull pink. It gets a really good red-orange fall color. There is a good number of different clones of this cultivar out there with varying degrees of pink flowers and with leaves being more roundish to more pointed. The ones in the Chicago area had duller pink flowers but more roundish leaves, while in southeast Pennsylvania I've seen brighter pink flowers and more narrow leaves like 'Froebel.'

[ Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Neon Flash') | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

This is a newer cultivar that was introduced into the trade by Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland from Japan. It is very similar to the 'Anthony Waterer' cultivar except its flowers are more reddish-pink and darker and it starts out with more young reddish foliage growth. One source I saw said that it does not self-sow, so that it should not become an invasive east Asian plant into North America as many cultivars can do. Some conventional nurseries sell this, but I only have seen some sold at one nursery where I worked during one season.

[ Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Goldmound') | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

'Gold Mound' is a very popular cultivar that is planted a lot in many conventional landscapes and sold by almost every conventional nursery. It is a hybrid between the Alpine Japanese Spirea x the 'Goldflame' Japanese-Bumald Spirea introduced to the trade by the W.H. Perron Company Ltd. in Quebec, Canada. Its main feature is the bright yellow foliage in spring. That foliage turns yellow-green when the true warmth and heat of summer come forth. It bears some small pink flower clusters. It develops a fair orangish-red fall color. I've never really liked it myself because it is one of those yellow-foliaged woody plants that make me think it has micronutrient deficiency and I want to treat it with chelated nutrients.

[ Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Froebelii') | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

This "Froebel' cultivar came forth into the nursery industry in the 1980's. I was first told it was an improvement over 'Anthony Waterer' at the nursery where I worked. I would say it isn't. It differs from AW in being a little more upright in habit, with longer, more pointed leaves that turn a fair yellow in the fall, and its pink flower clusters are a little smaller but with a deeper, darker pink.

[ Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Little Princess') | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

'Little Princess' has been a very popular landscape plant since the 1980's. This cultivar was selected in Holland. It has replaced another compact cultivar with small leaves that is the Alpine Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica alpina) that was used a lot in the 1970's.

[ Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame') | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

'Goldflame' has been a very popular small shrub since the 1980's in much of the US because of its colourful foliage. Since then it has been very popular for people to have "colour" in their yards by using woody plants with yellow or red foliage. I'd rather do that with flowers instead. However, the use of red or yellow foliaged woody plants as an accent, not as a mainstay, is recommended by professional landscape architects and designers. The buds and young leaves of 'Goldflame' begin as red in early spring and then most of the leaf colour is orangish-yellow with red areas the rest of the cool springtime. When the weather becomes warm, the foliage becomes a bright greenish-yellow, and during the heat of summer the foliage colour becomes a poor yellowish-green. Then in autumn it returns to a good fall colour of yellow-orange with red areas. It does bloom alright with the pink flower clusters in June-early July, though they are smaller than those of various green foliaged cultivars and it does not look as good contrasted with yellow-green colour. This cultivar is normally listed in nursery catalogs under Spiraea x bumalda rather than S. japonica. If not pruned this cultivar like the mother species is usually about 4 to 5 feet high and a little wider, but I have seen it eventually get to 6 feet high x 9 feet wide.

[ Securinega (Securinega suffruticosa) | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

I've only seen one specimen of this Fountain Hardhack from Northeast Asia, central China, and Kazakhstan. It is planted at the far back corner of the backyard along the fence of my biggest customer, who is a plant enthusiast. She has a very diverse landscape with many different, less common or rare species. That specimen is very upright and irregular in habit due to the Cryptomeria tree close to it that blocks some of the light and tangles with it; so it is not dense and bushy as it can be, with arching branches. My customer bought it about 20 years ago because it has a good yellow fall color and is rare in cultivation in the US. It is a member of the Euphorbia Family. It has alternate, simple, ovate leaves about 1 to 2 inches long. It bears small greenish-white flowers in July to August and small greenish capsules. Its bark is plain and brown.

[ Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea') | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

This variety only differs from the mother species in having its foliage be purplish-red the whole growing season. It is not sold very much anymore, as a number of other more dwarf or compact cultivars with red foliage are used a lot instead. As I wrote about the green Japanese Barberry, I have never loved it as it is so nasty to touch or work around with all its many sharp thorns. Unless it is properly pruned with hand pruners, it eventually becomes a dense, great mess and mass of stems and twigs and becomes ugly. It hurts to try to prune this species or the cultivars to keep them looking good, despite gloves and clothing. It bears the football-shaped orange berries in late summer into winter that are eaten by some birds, which spread the seed around so that it becomes an invasive plant in and around woods, the seedlings returning to the green mother species form.

[ Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

Because this shrub is so nasty to touch or work around from of all its many sharp thorns, I have never loved it in my whole horticultural career for decades. It has a beauty of pretty, fine-textured foliage and good orange or red fall color, but I would not miss seeing it in landscapes. This mother species with green foliage gets to be 5 to 8 feet high and 6 to 15 feet wide with a very dense, rounded habit, though when not old or if properly pruned it can have a nice informal habit. By itself it eventually becomes a horribly dense mass of stems and twigs. Many homeowners shear barberry into weird meatball or squarish forms. It bears lots of orange football-shaped fruit that some kinds of birds eat and spread the seed around, so that it becomes an invasive east Asian plant in and around woods. It makes a great shelter for deer ticks and other ticks in the wild. This mother species is not used or sold much in the trade, but there is a huge number of cultivars of dwarf or compact size or purple-red or yellow foliage used a lot in many landscapes in the US.

[ Pussy Willow (Salix caprea) | Posted on September 12, 2018 ]

This Goat Willow or Eurasian Pussy Willow is a well-know woody plant by many, of course native to much of Europe and northern Asia. It is occasionally planted in landscapes and some are offered by many conventional nurseries. The leaves are about 2 to 5 inches long, with irregular teeth, wavy margins, and sort of a wrinkled aspect to the leaf. No real fall color. Like other willows, it is dioecious and there are separate male and female plants. It is only the male form that is used in horticulture in North America because the male form has the showier flowers. Therefore, this large shrub is not going to reproduce by seed in North America. It is fast growing of about 3 to 6 feet/year and lives up to 50 years. It is weak wooded and get picked on by various cankers and leaf blights. It has a fibrous, shallow root system and is easy to transplant. It is easily propagated by stem cuttings in water or moist medium. (The American Pussy Willow (Salix discolour) is so very similar that differs in having twigs that mature to deep dark brown, has almost black buds, and the underside of the leaves are bluish-white and bloomy, the leaves should not be wrinkled in aspect, and the pussy flowers are slightly smaller.) Pussy or Goat Willow is not considered as an all-around wonderful large shrub for landscapes, but it is valued for its late winter flowers.

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