I am hoping for a bit more growth from the Wheel tree (Trochodendron aralioides, below) this spring. In its first spring a year ago growth was minimal, and while Wheel tree is reputed as slow, I look forward to more than a few inches of growth now that its roots are more established. But, already I marvel over the flowers that have not fully opened. A year ago there were none, and today they are quite marvelous as they open, though not colorful. The developing flowers clearly demonstrate the reason behind the tree’s name.
The Wheel tree is planted very close in the position where a tall Alaskan cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis) suffered and faded in increasing shade and finally was removed. The cedar grew to be a poor choice for this spot near the house over a few decades where the tall evergreen obstructed much of the view out the kitchen window to the garden. My wife was not thrilled that anything called a tree could be planted back into this space, but I’ve assured her that we’ll both be dead and gone by the time the view is obstructed again, if ever. I would happily suffer her comments if a sudden burst of growth proved me wrong.
Finally, I see the small flowers of the witch hazel relative, Distylium (below), that has become quite popular in the southeastern states, while it is less common in this area close to the northern tip of its hardiness. Its flowers are unremarkable, but with a small collection of witch hazels (Hamamelis) I had to have one when they first became available. In fact, there are two, one that barely survives in deep shade and one that thrives in mostly full sun. I don’t think distylium is popularly regarded as an ornamental, primarily functioning as a moderately sized evergreen sheared into a tight ball as a hedge. Nothing is sheared in this garden, so the evergreen is unremarkable, but I have the one I was was looking for.
Another witch hazel relation, Fothergilla (Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’, below) displays more remarkable flowers, though blooms on one are sparse planted in too much shade. A second flowers better, but it was recently transplanted out of the vigorous patch of Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) where it was clearly not happy. A third was planted years ago along the northern border where it flowers beautifully, for the neighbor to see.
Fitting pieces into a thirty-three year old garden is very much trial and error, and once obvious, a fothergilla must be moved to a brighter spot with less competition shading its side branches. Here, it will add to the garden’s abundant spring blooms for many years.