I suspect that many gardeners are hopeless collectors of plants. Recently, I wrote about the collection of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) in the garden, and the many irises, but there are more. Possibly, too many.
There are a dozen or more dogwoods of various stripes in the garden. The native Eastern dogwood (Cornus florida) begins to flower by mid April in most years. Now, in mid June the flowers of Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa) have faded, except a scattered few on ‘Satomi’ (above), that begins and ends a bit later. By planting one native, a hybrid (such as ‘Stellar Pink’), and a Chinese dogwood the gardener is assured of six weeks of continuous dogwood blooms, and occasionally two full months. Planting four or five (or fifteen) is not a necessity, though there are many splendid choices with varying flower and foliage colors for a more spacious garden.
The Eastern native is the most difficult of the dogwoods, but there are several in this garden that have thrived for twenty-five years. I expect they will survive for as long as I do, though they are regularly plagued by minor traumas in the heat of summer.
Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana, above) is the least conspicuous of the magnolias in the garden. It is planted along the forest’s edge, and its shrubby habit blends with the neighboring foliage. This is, of course, its native habitat, where it is obvious when flowering, and occasionally when its silver backed leaves flutter in a breeze. The flowers of Sweetbay magnolia are smaller and less abundant than on other magnolias, but they are sweetly scented.
In this dry shade, Sweetbay is a treasure. While it will tolerant damp soils, it shows no significant decline when the soil is baked hard and dry. Recent introductions are nearly evergreen, but this Sweetbay magnolia drops most if its leaves, whether the winter is cold or mild.
I’m thankful that I did not go whole hog to plant more than a single Golden Rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata, above) when the garden was young. Many gardeners seem enthralled by this yellow flowered tree, but its brittle branches and prolific seedlings soured my enthusiasm for the tree long ago. I would not be terribly disappointed if a summer storm shattered what remains of the the Golden Rain (which is, unfortunately, most of it, though storms have broken several large branches). I suppose the tree could be managed if planted with only sod beneath it, but its thousands of seeds spread through too much of the garden, and create far too much work for the gardener.
I have long considered planting a Mountain stewartia (Stewartia ovata), but have been unable to find a tree of adequate size to satisfy my impatience. Certainly, I waited long enough for a thin, six foot Stewartia pseudocamellia (above) to grow to make a show. Perhaps it is slightly quicker to get started than the purple leafed European beech (Fagus sylvatica) that hardly grew an inch for eight years (though now it is a magnificent fifty or sixty feet tall). While the stewartia is hemmed in by Japanese maples and dogwoods that towered over the young tree, today it rises above its neighbors.
Remarkably, there are as many flower buds on shaded lower branches as ones popping into the sun. These open to flower over several weeks in June, and then I wish that it was planted front and center in the garden so neighbors could enjoy it also. But, this would move a dogwood or two to a less prominent spot, so I quite satisfied with the way things are.