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[ Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa 'Pink Panda') | Posted on December 11, 2018 ]

Way back in the spring of 2003 I bought a few pots of this 'Pink Panda' Strawberry from a K-Mart. I planted them into my front yard peninsula bed that was full sun in its beginning. They did well and made a nice delicate groundcover. However, as the trees grew large and have shaded that bed, they have declined. Some are still there, but not nearly as much with too much shade and competition from other perennials. It blooms well in May and then some sporatic flowering until fall. I have never seen much fruit from this cultivar. This cultivar was developed in England to be an ornamental groundcover from a perennial that was a cross between the Marsh Cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris) x the Beach Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) and then back-crossed again with the strawberry.

[ Purple Wintercreeper Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei var. radicans 'Coloratus') | Posted on December 9, 2018 ]

This Purple Wintercreeper is normally planted to be a groundcover, but it can become as a vine and climb up trees, shrubs, walls, fences, and other structures. I remember it as both a groundcover and a vine on the walls of the library at Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL in the 1970's and 1980's, but it became infested with the white hard-shelled Euonymus Scale insect and the arboretum at least took away the huge amount of climbing vine on the building; they may have gotten rid of the whole plant mass. When I worked around a hospital in the 1990's, there was a large patch at the east entrance with some trees and shrubs in the planting area. I would prune away some vine from the woody plants every so often and on the brick building walls and along the cement curb in front of the area. I also would run an elevated lawnmower over the groundcover to keep it from getting too high and keep it neater. The lawnmower cutting helped the bacterial Crown Gall disease increase so that there were lots of brown, woody galls on many stems. The mass of the plant "felt" dirty to me. This cultivar of several clones, that were introduced from Japan in 1914 to the US, usually gets a red-purple fall and winter colour on both sides of the leaves and usually does not fruit. This groundcover is work to keep it from growing out of bounds. It has been commonly planted in the Chicago, IL area and other areas of the upper Midwest. I have seen it only a little in the Mid-Atlantic.

[ Bigleaf Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei 'Vegetus') | Posted on December 9, 2018 ]

This broadleaf evergreen from East Asia usually grows with a bushy base of 1 to 4 feet high and then sends up stems to become a climbing vine above. I grew up at my parent's brick house that had one Bigleaf Wintercreeper planted in a narrow space about 2 feet wide between the brick house wall and a cement walkway that went around the house. There was a second plant also in the narrow strip of soil between the brick wall and the cement sidewalk behind the house. Both plants were a bushy base about 3 to 4 feet high and then becoming a vine above that. They blended well with the Japanese Pachysandra growing in the rest of the soil strips between the house and the cement walkway that went around about half of the house. I used to have some fun by pulling off some of the succulent leaves and throwing them on my dad's grill and watch the leaves sizzle and pop. This cultivar is somewhat common in the Chicago, Illinois region, sold by many conventional nurseries there and I've seen some in central Illinois. I have not really seen it elsewhere; none in southeast Pennsylvania. It is a heavy fruiting form and it does have larger, leathery leaves to about 2 inches long. I once had to save the front plant from the white hard- shelled Euonymus Scale insect that can kill off this cultivar and others of the Fortune Wintercreeper Euonymus. I did this by cutting below the infestation and the plant grew back; otherwise, one must use dormant oil sprays. As I have come into greater passion for American native plants than Eurasian ones, I don't like this plant as much as I used to. In conventional landscaping it is occasionally good as a broadleaf evergreen. I do like 'Vegetus' better than any of the other Wintercreepers. I don't know of this Bigleaf cultivar escaping cultivation in northern or central Illinois to become an invasive plant.

[ Tilia | Posted on December 8, 2018 ]

Tilia is the Latin name for Linden, Lime, or Basswood trees. There are about 40 species of these deciduous, medium to large-sized trees, native to the temperate regions of Eurasia and North America. There used to be what were considered 4 species in eastern North America, but now are 4 varieties of the one American Basswood (Tilia americana), including the Carolina variety in the deep southern US, the Florida variety in the deep southern US and the mountains of northern Mexico, and the White variety in the eastern US. The regular common variety is also in southeast Canada besides the midwestern and eastern US. Europe has a good number of excellent species that are more refined than the American species, having smaller leaves. I believe that I've seen the Mongolian and the Japanese species planted at an arboretum in northern Illinois, looking good. Lindens are distinctive for their simple, alternate, broadly ovate, heart-shaped leaves with coarsely toothed margins and unequal leaf bases. The small clusters of small, creamy, fragrant, cup-shaped flowers pollinated by insects, especially bees, in late spring develop into hard, little, nutlike, brown berries that hang on slender stalks that are attached to a narrow, leafy bract. The root system is fibrous so that they are easy to transplant. The wood is pale, lightweight, and strong. In the USA, the American, the Littleleaf, and the Silver Lindens and their cultivars are used a lot in landscaping for street and shade trees. In Europe several European species are also used a lot for street and shade trees.

[ Carya | Posted on December 7, 2018 ]

Carya, the generic scientific name for Hickory, comes from the old Greek word of "karya" that means "walnut" in that language. Hickories are deciduous, medium to large sized trees in the Walnut Family. They are most valued as having tough, strong wood and edible nuts. Some 20 species are native to the eastern and central USA and a little of southeast Canada; one is native to the mountain uplands Mexico, with three others having found their way there probably by bird migrations; and several species are of eastern Asia. I've never seen Asian species or found good literature about them, and they all might not be common in their homeland. Hickories have compound, pinnate leaves that turn golden in the fall. The staminate (male) flowers appear in slender catkins at the base of the new season's growth. The pistillate (female) flowers appear in small clusters on the twigs. The nut seed is enclosed in a leathery husk that divides into four segments. The Pecan Hickory (Carya illinoensis or pecan) is an important nut crop. Most species are slow to slow-medium growing of 6 inches to 12 inches/year, but a few grow faster, as the Pecan. They are high quality beautiful trees that are not usually sold from nurseries to plant in landscapes, but are left in yards after development. One can buy some hickory trees as saplings from native plant nurseries in the US or Canada for natural landscapes. They are hosts to hundreds of beneficial insects, especially caterpillars, and the nuts are high value for wildlife. Several species of the American Hickories ( Shagbark, Bitternut, Pignut, and Mockernut) are common forest trees, growing with oaks, beech, and other climax forest tree species.

[ Elm (Ulmus) | Posted on December 5, 2018 ]

There are about 30 species of Elms across the temperate region of the Northern Hemishere. They grow to be medium to large sized trees with furrowed gray-brown to brown bark. The alternate, usually deciduous leaves are one-sided at the base with prominent , parallel, lateral veins and regularly toothed margins, and leaves get a good orange-yellow fall colour to a poor yellowish-green fall colour, depending on the species and weather conditions. The small, dry, disc-like fruits are made of a central seed surrounded by a round wing. The American or White Elm is one of the largest and is noted as having the best vase-shaped habit. There are several European Elms that are noted as being good quality trees also. Asian Elms have smaller leaves and are more twiggy than the others, but some are good quality trees. Generally, elms are adaptable to many soils: dry to draining wet, slightly acid to neutral to well-alkaline; and are medium to fast growing. A deadly fungus called Dutch Elm Disease that began in East Asia, where Asian elms are resistant, (Ophiostoma ulmi) devastated the elm population of both North America and Europe, spread by the European Elm Bark Beetle. Fortunately, about one in several hundred elms survived the disease having resistance in themselves and there has been work in restoring the species with resistant cultivars and natural selections.

[ Purple Leaf Plum (Prunus cerasifera 'Atropurpurea') | Posted on November 23, 2018 ]

This is the original Purple-leaf Cherry Plum or Pissard Plum Tree that was introduced from the Shah's gardens in Iran to France in 1880 by a Mr. Pissard. Then introduced to the US not long after that. A number of new selections of cultivars came forth over the years from this one. 'Newport' and 'Thundercloud' seem to be the most common selections offered. The mother Cherry Plum species is native to western Asia. Most every large conventional nursery offers a form of the Purple-leaf Plum Tree. It does have pretty foliage and spring flowers. However, its root system tends to be weak and it can lodge some. In both the Chicago, IL, and Philadelphia, PA regions this tree usually lives about 20 years after planting until it is killed by canker and borers due to summers with hot, humid spells, especially with drought. If I went back to conventional ornamental horticulture, rather than naturalistic, I would consider one tree as an accent plant in a landscape yard. Otherwise, I agree with my old woody plant teacher of Dr Michael Dirr that this small tree is often over-planted and "there is something about a purple-leaved beast that excites people to spend money."

[ Purple Leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena) | Posted on November 23, 2018 ]

This is a hybrid between the Purple-leaf Plum Tree or Pissard Plum (Prunus cerasifera 'Atropurpurea', that was introduced into France from Iran in 1880 from the Shah's gardens, with the Sandcherry (Prunus pumila) that is a shrub of willow-like habit from the northeastern US. It was introduced by Dr. Hansen of South Dakota State University in 1910 into the nursery trade. Most every conventional nursery sells some form of this hybrid in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast US. It does have pretty red foliage and nice flowers in spring. However, I've always considered it as a fast growing, cheap, junky shrub. Many homeowners use it wrongly with yellow foliaged plants and bluer foliaged evergreens to create a gaudy bright colour spot that takes away from the vision of the home. Its root system like that of the Purple-leaf Plum Tree is weak and it often lodges some. After about 15 years in regions where there are summer bouts of humid, hot spells, especially with drought, this shrub is attacked by canker disease and borers and dies out. I've seen this a lot in the Chicago, IL, and Philadelphia, PA regions. I used to have a photo of several shrubs in a group dying in the front yard of a large house in Media, PA, about 2012.

[ Japanese Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga japonica) | Posted on November 22, 2018 ]

This is a rare species that grows wild in a few spots in southern Japan. There are about 2,000 mature trees existing now-a-days wild in Japan. In 1914 the famous plant collector of E.H. Wilson collected some in 1914 for the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, MA. I've never seen this species. It is supposed to be slow growing and not getting large in cultivation. Its needles are shorter than the Common Douglas-Fir of the western US, having needles 0.6 to 1 inch long. The cones are the smallest of the genus being 1.6 to 2 inches long with 15 to 20 thick scales.

[ Bigcone Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa) | Posted on November 22, 2018 ]

Some botanists consider this as a separate species from the Common Douglas-Fir (P. menziesii) and others as a natural variety. It differs from the common species or variety by having more nearly 2-ranked foliage, cones 4 to 7 inches long with the bracts extending only to the ends of the scales, and larger seed. It is only found growing in the San Berdino Mountains of far southern California and a little over the Mexican border into Baja California.

[ Aspen (Populus tremula) | Posted on November 20, 2018 ]

This is the Common or European Aspen that is native to Europe, far North Africa in the mountains, western Asia, and Siberia. The leaves are 1 to 3 inches long, rounded with some large, dull teeth on the margins, and it gets a clear yellow fall colour. It is similar to the Quaking Aspen of North America with the same tight, smooth, cream-colored bark. Like other aspens, it can send up ground suckers to become a colony. I've never seen this species in the US. The columnar cultivar of 'Erecta' is grown at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum near St. Paul - Minneapolis, where it is doing well.

[ Populus | Posted on November 20, 2018 ]

Populus is the Latin word for popular trees. There are about 35 species across the Northern Hemisphere. In North America native popular trees are usually called Cottonwoods. There are three species of Aspen among this genus of the Quaking, the Bigtooth, and the European. Poplars have soft, white wood that is often used to make matches, packing cases, and other soft wood products. They are fast growing, need full sun or close to it, and usually grow in moist or wet soils. They are pioneer trees that begin the forest and are replaced by the succession of slower growing, more shade tolerant kinds of trees. The genus is dioecious, meaning that there are separate "male" trees only bearing the staminate flowers that produce pollen, and the "female" trees that only bear the pistillate flowers producing seed. Both kinds of flowers are borne in hanging catkins that appear in late winter or early spring before the leaves. The dry fruits are capsules containing tiny seeds covered with cotton-like hairs, so the seed is blown far by winds. The leaves are set on long, flexible leaf stalks that shake in the wind, and most get a good yellow fall colour. The vigorous root systems are notorious for blocking drains and lifting pavement, so these large to medium sized trees are not for small properties, though the upright Aspens can fit into smaller areas.

[ Turkish Hazel (Corylus colurna) | Posted on November 13, 2018 ]

The Turkish Hazelnut or Filbert is a large tree that is native to southeast Europe and western Asia, I've only seen a few in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic of the US at arboretums or estates. It makes a great street tree in Germany and other parts of Europe and is urban tolerant. It makes a handsome coarse-textured tree. It grows medium rate of about 1.5 feet/year when young.

[ Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) | Posted on November 13, 2018 ]

Star Magnolia comes from Japan and is usually a bushy small tree about 15 feet high in landscapes. It is slow growing of about 1 foot/year. It is prized most for its early white fragrant flowers that are about 3 to 4 inches in diameter with 12 to 18 strap-like petals that last about 7 to 10 days during late February to mid-April, depending on longitude. In more northern regions the flowers are often damaged by late freezes. The plant is listed as being hardy to USDA Zone 4a, but the flowers probably get hit a lot that far north. Like Saucer Magnolia, it has pretty, smooth, thin, gray bark and big fuzzy flower buds. It often gets an acceptable yellow fall color. It is a neat, clean, easy plant. There are at least 25 cultivars developed, but I've only seen the most common one of 'Royal Star' that has about 25 to 30 petals and tends to bloom a little later than the mother species, and is more commonly planted than the mother species. Star Magnolia is offered at many conventional nurseries and is occasionally found in both home and public landscapes in the Midwest and East of the US, and other regions.

[ Marsh Andromeda (Andromeda polifolia) | Posted on November 11, 2018 ]

This Bog-Rosemary is a northern species found wild in bogs and swamps in much of Canada, New England, New York, northern New Jersey & Pennsylvania, northeast Ohio, northern Indiana, Michigan, most of Wisconsin, and northeast Minnesota. It has alternate, linear, glossy, leathery leaves that are white felty beneath and the leaf edges are rolled under. It has shallow creeping rootstocks that allow it to form a colony and it is easy to transplant. It is not easy to grow in most gardens, unless one can create a bog garden with constantly moist to draining wet acid organic soil, that would have a sandy loam texture or be potting soil. My biggest customer had one for a few years near her fountain pool where the soil was usually very moist, but I don't think it could thrive in the sort of heavy silt-clay soil, and it died out. Jenkins Arboretum in southeast Pennsylvania, (Zone 6b), just upgraded their bog garden along their large pond and planted one and it should do well there. This plant is compared to Rosemary because it looks similar, but it leaves are poisonous. It is sold by some native plant and specialty plant nurseries.

[ Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo subsp. mugo) | Posted on November 10, 2018 ]

I would say this is the most common variety of Mugo Pine being planted nowadays, making a dense rounded shrub wider than high. Most of the new growth can be pruned away in June to keep it more compact. It can be damaged or killed off by the European Pine Moth that consume one year old needles or by white Pine Scale insects sucking fluids. Native to the eastern Alps and the Balkans.

[ Dwarf Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo) | Posted on November 10, 2018 ]

Nurseries in the Midwest and the East US used to sell the regular Mugo Pine since the early 1900's into the 1970's. They found more dwarf varieties of the species as Pinus mugo mugo and Pinus mugo pumilio and started using them instead. I've seen old specimens of Mugo Pine in cemeteries that are definitely 15 to 20 feet high and wide; still with a shrubby form with several trunks. The dark green needles are in 2;s and are 1 to 3 inches long, stiff and prickly. It is slow growing of 6 to 10 inches/year. If people knew that one can prune pines by cutting off most of the new candles growth in June or so, one can keep it as a low shrub 3 to 6 feet high for decades. It does well like its big sister of Austrian Black Pine in the silt-clay and slightly alkaline soils of the upper Midwest. Younger shrubs can be damaged or killed by the European Pine Sawfly or by white Pine Scale insects. Native to central and southern Europe in the mountains.

[ Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii 'Jane Platt') | Posted on November 9, 2018 ]

This cultivar was discovered in the garden of Jane & John Platt in Portland, Oregon. The mother species is native to the southeastern US. From what I have seen in two places in southeast Pennsylvania, it looks like dainty erect stems coming out of the ground with smaller, narrower leaves than the mother species. It definitely spreads by underground runners. It gets better fall colour in full sun, though it is recommended to keep it out of the hot mid-day sun.

[ Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) | Posted on November 7, 2018 ]

This is a clean, neat, high quality shrub from central China. It usually grows about 10 to 15 feet high and wide, but can get over 20 feet high. It does not have as many stems as the two American species, and being a little more tree-like, one or two of those stems are more like small trunks. Its leaves are rounded and about 3 to 6 inches long by 2.5 to 4.5 inches wide that get a good golden fall color. The buds are densely pubescent. It has the largest witchhazel flowers in February-March that are a little more fragrant than the others, but are less cold hardy, being injured at -10 to -15 F below zero. The Japanese Witchhazel is very similar with smaller leaves, less rounded, to 4 inches long by 2.5 inches wide, and it is a little more cold hardy as a shrub and with flowers. There are several cultivars in the trade from both species. The Asian Hybrid Witchhazel (H. x intermedia) is the hybrid between the Chinese x the Japanese species and has a large number of cultivars, and these are the more popular Witchhazels being sold at many conventional nurseries.

[ Hypericum ascyron subsp. pyramidatum | Posted on November 6, 2018 ]

Great St Johnswort is a herbaceous species, not one of the woody ones. It is native to some of northeast North America and Eurasia. The American variety is H. ascyron pyramidatum that is native to southern Quebec to Minnesota to southwest Iowa and Northeast Kansas over to New Jersey & Pennsylvania, growing in moist to wet areas of open woods, thickets, streambanks, fens, and lowlands. Its yellow flowers are about 2 inches wide, have 5 distinct petals definitely separated from each other, with a large, light green pistil in the middle that has 5 styles on the end of the pistil, (most Hypericum have only 1 to 3 styles) and there are about 100 long stamens in the flower. The leaves are long and pointed of about 4 inches long by 1.5 inches wide and sessile or slightly clasped on the stems. It gets a pale yellow fall color. It is easy to grow in regular gardens. I have never seen this species sold in conventional nurseries. I've only seen one specimen so far in my life at Jenkins Arboretum in southeast PA along their big pond. The Mount Cuba Center in northern Delaware is supposed to have some. Looks like a good perennial to me.

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