Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Blowing my own horn...

This post is entirely self-gratification. I hardly ever do this, in fact I'm usually self-effacing to a fault (seriously, people would probably be less annoyed if I bragged, instead). I am learning to take joy in my successes and not shy away from sharing such tales.

So what am I bragging about? I have an article in American Nurseryman! This is my first time being published and, I have to say, it gives me a little thrill seeing my work in a national magazine. You can read the article here: Captivating Corylopsis, American Nurseryman digital edition

Are you still here? Or did you get distracted finding nurseries that sell Corylopsis?

I wrote this as an independent project during my curatorial internship at Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, PA. Longwood held shrub trials for eight years at their nursery facility, evaluating over 1200 taxa (different kinds of plants) and the resulting data has been used by curatorial interns since as an independent writing and research project. For my own article, I chose the genus Corylopsis, or winter-hazel, interpreting the data from the shrub trials and compiling it with research from previous publications, taxonomic research, and my own observations.

From my observations of mature plants, mostly at Longwood Gardens, I have to say I think the ratings would have been different if the evaluators could have seen mature specimens. Winter-hazels can be unfortunately awkward or boring in youth, but they grow into such lovely medium to large shrubs, and can even be pruned up into multi-stemmed trees for smaller gardens. I'm going to emphasize some of my personal favorites and share pictures here that couldn't be included in the article (it's so long, and was even longer before we cut it down to size to fit in the magazine!)

Corylopsis spicata

This lovely Japanese native has the most quirky and interesting mature habit of the winter-hazels, in my opinion. Seeing the crooked branches in winter, weeping slightly at the ends, made me think of a dome of caramelized sugar. Unfortunately that doesn't photograph well in the dark area where these grow at Longwood, but you can at least get the reference with this picture. It also has some of the most unique and beautiful flowers, set off by dark red anthers, and gorgeous blue-green leaves. The flowers are mildly fragrant, reminding me of star fruit.

The red anthers of Corylopsis spicata are the kind of extra little detail that draws me to certain plants.

Lush, blue-green leaves of Corylopsis spicata glow in a shady location.
Corylopsis spicata has some of the bigger leaves in the genus, seen here (left)
compared to Corylopsis 'Winterthur' (right).

One of the most spectacular inflorescences in the genus belongs to Corylopsis willmottiae, at least one specimen of which is hidden by a grove of Magnolia grandiflora in the Hillside Garden at Longwood. Though this species has been lumped together with C. sinensis, the spectacular 3-4 inch long, dangling flowers make it well worth tracking down this particular variety. It is a big boy, though, reaching somewhere around 20 feet tall at Longwood, but is in such deep shade that it is stretching up for light (etiolated, for those of you who like technical terms). I'd love to see it growing in more ideal conditions so that its form could develop normally. C. willmottiae is also notable for surviving a heat wave into the 80's in April that shriveled most other Corylopsis flowers. Another winter-hazel that was added to the C. sinensis melting pot, C. platypetala, survived the same heat wave, but by blooming after it rather than toughing it out like C. willmottiae
Corylopsis willmottiae really deserves some recognition, at least as a cultivar, for its glorious 3-4 inch pendant racemes.

For scale: those lines are wide-rule, not college-rule! 
Corylopsis platypetala, now a part of the sinensis complex (taxonomists are so cruel to give poor, innocent plants a complex), growing in full sun at Longwood, was packed with blooms nearly as long as C. willmottiae, but blooming a bit later.
Corylopsis pauciflora won top prize at the shrub trials and, despite my love of underdogs, I must admit it may deserve that distinction. It is the smallest species in the genus, growing on average 6 feet tall and wide, is fairly symmetrical, full, and puts on a spectacular show, in other words the most suitable for cookie-cutter landscapes in housing developments. But don't dismiss this plant as a dull meatball yet. Actually this winter-hazel is the advanced party used to infiltrate botanically boring gardens, as it looks good as a little meatball in a nursery container and develops grace and character as it grows, gradually bringing the horticulturally handicapped into the world of cool plants. It develops a wonderfully graceful, flat-topped vase form and has the finest texture in the genus. New growth is a lovely spring-green tinged pink to red. The specific epithet pauciflora means "few-flowered," and was given to this winter-hazel because it only has 2-4 flowers per raceme, but the buttercup winter-hazel makes up for it by setting flower buds densely along its branches and the individual flowers are twice the size of other winter-hazels (still small, but hey, we're not talking hibiscus, here).  
Corylopsis pauciflora
C. pauciflora really is a photogenic plant. 
Like stars in the night sky...
One of the latest additions to the winter-hazel line is from Longwood Gardens. Corylopsis glabrescens 'Longwood Chimes' was selected from plants growing near its namesake Chimes Tower and is notable for having larger flowers than the species. Corylopsis glabrescens is also a top choice among winter-hazels for its strong fragrance and later bloom date, both of which 'Longwood Chimes' exhibits perfectly. The delayed blooming (up to 2 weeks later) of this species helps to avoid damage from late frosts, a common concern with this genus. I love this species for its fragrance and may even spring for the cultivar 'Longwood Chimes' when it becomes available.  
Young plants of Corylopsis glabrescens 'Longwood Chimes' display a very broad habit, but become more upright with maturity. Photo by Sara Helm. 

And the rest is eye candy...

I believe this is C. pauciflora, but it could be C. sinensis. Forgot to add the name to the file!

Corylopsis 'Winterthur' backed by a phenomenal specimen of Metasequoia glyptostroboides. 

C. sinensis tends toward a rather yellow-green, which personally I find quite beautiful in the right setting. 

Doesn't that color just scream, "Spring!"?

Corylopsis 'Winterthur' with the Chimes Tower in the background.


Well, if you've made it this far, thanks for reading! But I have some bad news for you. You may be a plant addict. 

Until next time...




5 comments:

  1. Congratulations! I look forward to reading your article (too sleepy now).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I see I wasn't the only one struck with a bout of insomnia last night.

      Delete
  2. Congrats on the article! Corylopsis is the first plant I killed when we moved here to Washington. I planted another one last year, in a better spot. Maybe that one will survive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Alison! I hope your new Corylopsis makes it!

      Delete
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