Summer is for cookouts, picnics, fun in the sun, and lounging by the pool. But what is summer without Trees, Spirits, Accents, and Fringe? They all work together to make each and every outdoor space a beautiful oasis—an oasis that families can enjoy for generations to come. This is what our summer lookbook is all about, and we know it will inspire you.
Seven Son Flowers was brought to the U.S. by Harvard's famed plant explorer E.H. "Chinese" Wilson in 1907. However, no plants survived that trip, and the species fell back into obscurity. Seventy-three years later, Americans again ventured to China to locate the rare plant and were successful. Today gardeners can get their hands on this wonderful tree that is still quite uncommon. The plant's name refers to how the tiny flowers are grouped into clusters of seven. They resemble the flowers of honeysuckle - to which they are related - and are butterfly manna.
It wasn’t the grand Southern Magnolia that first made its way into English gardens, but the more delicate Sweet Bay. John Banister, an English missionary in Virginia, sent seeds of the tree back home in 1688; it was the first Magnolia to be grown in Europe. Tragically, Banister’s collecting days would be cut short a few years later, when he was accidentally shot while exploring the Roanoke River. Our “Multi-Stem” Sweet Bays are grown the way they often appear in the wild—with a “clump” of three or more trunks.
Two of the oldest Paper bark Maple trees in North America, reside at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. Ernest Henry Wilson, through the support of the Arboretum, collect the seedlings on an expedition to China in 1907. The historic 100 year old maples are located near Bradley Garden and Bussey Hill within the Arboretum. The tree on Bussey Hill is oddly shaped due to the loss of its leader some time ago and considerably smaller but continues to produces perfect flowers and viable seeds. This tree is believed to be the source of the first generation of Paper bark Maples planted in North America.
Arborvitae means “Tree of Life”; the Vitamin C in the needles of the Eastern species saved early explorers from succumbing to scurvy (we’ll stick to orange juice). This variety is a hybrid between a Western species and one from Japan. It was first grown at the Poulsen family nursery in Denmark (yes, the one that brought us ‘Emerald Green,’ too) in 1937, and then shared with the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. in 1967. Once the public found out about it (which didn’t happen until the late 1990s), they loved it.
The original Kindred Spirit® Oak Tree has had over 40 years to prove its merits, and it has clearly shown itself to be a winner. In 1974, it was one acorn among one thousand planted by the legendary nurseryman, Earl Cully, of Jacksonville, Illinois. Cully had crossed the upright Columnar English Oak with our native Swamp White Oak in hopes of combining the best attributes of both. Out of the hundreds of seedlings that he grew from that pairing, only a few trees made the final cut. The elegant Regal Prince® Columnar Oak was the first introduction, and Kindred Spirit®—with an even tighter habit than its brother—was the second.
Because of its rock-hard wood (“horn” alludes to hardness, while “beam” is an Old English word for “tree”), Hornbeam has played many roles in human life. Through the ages, it has found its way into tool handles, butcher blocks, spokes, yokes, and piano keys. These days, it is more likely to live out its days as a hedge or screen. Often planted on the grounds of royals, this tree lends an air of sophistication to any home, indicating that a person of exquisite taste must certainly reside within!
Colorado Spruce inhabits the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the U.S. It’s a nice but ho-hum tree in its usual wild form: a tall, snow-shedding pyramid, carrying fresh green needles all year-round. When it was discovered that powder-blue specimens could be had, however, the tree rocketed to the top of many wish lists. It became the go-to accent plant in Northern gardens across the country (it struggles in the Southeast). This columnar variety first appeared in Canada around 1987 and made it to the U.S. a few years later.
Fourth-generation nurseryman Don Shadow is always on the lookout for plants doing interesting things, but he wouldn’t have had to be an expert plantsman to notice this guy—the original Slender Silhouette was 60 feet tall and only 3 feet wide when he found it growing by the railroad tracks. Don also has a passion for unusual animals and raises 60 different species (several of them endangered) on his Winchester, Tennessee farm. Ever heard of an eland? A gayal? He’s also got camels, buffalos, wallabies, alpacas, yaks—even a zonkey!
This species, our native Eastern Arborvitae, has the longest lifespan of any North American tree east of the Rockies, and can live 1,700 years. ‘Emerald Green’ didn’t originate here, however. It emerged from a Danish nursery in 1950, which is why you’ll sometimes see this tree referred to as ‘Smaragd’—Danish for “Emerald.” The descendants of the original owner of that nursery, D.T. Poulsen, are still running the business, though their attentions have turned to plant breeding, and they specialize in roses. Some 30 million ‘Poulsen’ roses are produced annually.
Native to much of the eastern U.S., the Eastern Redbud Tree is that showy tree you see near woodland edges addinga pop of early spring color to the roadsides with its masses of small pink flowers. It brings a warm golden glow to those same areas in fall with its changing leaves. The Alley Cat Redbud Tree was discovered by plantsman Allen Bush in an alley near his home in Louisville, Kentucky. Unlike some other variegated Redbuds, the new tree shows an alley cat toughness; the foliage doesn’t scorch in sun, nor does the variegation fade in hot weather. Some believe it’s the best variegated Redbud on the market.
This tree is the result of both carefully planned breeding and sheer luck. The original tree, Celestial White®, was the outcome of a deliberate breeding program masterminded by Dr. Elwin Orton of Rutgers University. His plan: to wed our native Flowering Dogwood with the Japanese KousaDogwood, thus imparting the descendants with beefed-up disease resistance. It was a rousing success. Now for the luck part: one Celestial® tree at Don Shadow’s Tennessee nursery sprouted a variegated-leaved branch. Don knew just what to do—get it into production and share it!
The European Beech tree is a cousin to our own American Beech, but has a much longer history of cultivation in gardens. As a result, only a few hard-to-find named selections of American Beech exist (the rest are raised from seed), whereas many different varieties of European Beech may be found for sale, including those having purple, gold, variegated, or lacy leaves, or having a dwarf, weeping, columnar, or contorted form. The first mention of this variegated Tri-Color form (you may also find it listed as ‘Roseomarginata’) was in the 1880s.
Japanese Red Pine is a common tree in its home country—maybe even the most common tree in Japan. It can grow to 100 feet tall on rich soil. It has been a valuable timber tree in the past, the wood durable and rot-resistant enough to be used in building bridges. The resinous wood burns so hot that it is preferred fuel for pottery kilns. Of course, not all Red Pines face such a fate—some are lovingly tended in landscapes! This smaller, variegated rendition has been around since at least 1890.
Old Gold Juniper is a type of Chinese Juniper, which originally hails from both China and Japan. Chinese Juniper is a tough, easy to grow species which over the years has given rise to a wonderfully rich assortment of plants of different colors, sizes, and shapes. There’s one for every landscape! The selection known as Old Gold emerged from a famous Dutch nursery, F.J. Grootendorst & Sons (better known for their roses), in the 1950s. Today, more than 50 years later, Old Gold is still valued for the cheerful burst of color it brings to landscapes. Our Oriental Pompom Topiary Tree-form Old Gold adds a touch of whimsy as well.
The hugely popular Emerald Green Arborvitae is a form of Eastern Arborvitae, an evergreen tree native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada that has played an important role in history. In the 1500s, the vitamin C in Eastern Arborvitae’s needles saved the lives of French explorers in North America who were dying of scurvy. Grateful Europeans called it the “Tree of Life,” or “Arborvitae” (“Arbor” meaning “Tree” and “vitae” meaning “life”). The highly esteemed tree was the first New World tree to be grown in European gardens. The sleek columnar selection known as ‘Emerald Green’ was discovered in a Danish nursery in 1950. It gave the world reason to fall in love with this cherished tree all over again.
The Snow Fountain® Weeping Cherry Tree is a malleable tree when young and makes a charming and quirky specimen when given a wavy serpentine trunk, like you’ll find on the Bower & Branch™ Trunk Twist Snow Fountain® Cherry. But we said, “Why stop there?” Using the ancient craft of bending and shaping young trees, our growers have devised a way to create a stunning one-of-a-kind Living Tree Chair out of an ordinary Snow Fountain® Cherry Tree. This treatment doesn’t harm the tree, but merely redirects its growth. The training takes several years of patient work, which is finally coming to fruition, and we are very excited to now be able to offer to you this fun and functional Living Tree Chair for your own backyard.
The story of the Blue Princess Holly is a remarkable one. It began on Long Island, where an amateur gardener named Kathleen Meserve lived. Meserve had a special fondness for Hollies, but most of the Hollies available to gardeners in her day weren’t dependably cold-hardy. They were English Hollies, adapted to the mild climate of that country, not the icy winters of New York. Most gardeners would have simply given up on Hollies, but Meserve had another idea. She learned how to breed them and hybridized her own cold-hardy new varieties! She bred Blue Princess in the 1950s; it was introduced in 1973. Today it’s one of the most popular Hollies in the country.
The Eastern Arborvitae is a remarkable tree that can live for 1,700 years. Its name means “Tree of Life,” but this is not a reference to its longevity. Rather, it’s a reference to a story from 1535. In that year, French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew had sailed to what is now Quebec. It was winter, and with no fresh food to eat, the men were beginning to die of scurvy. Fortunately, the local Iroquois came to the rescue with a vitamin-C-rich tea made from Eastern Arborvitae leaves. Eastern Arborvitae is normally a small to medium-sized tree, but Little Giant is a uniqueselection of it that grows into a small globe form.
Though it has only recently begun to get popular in gardens, the exquisite Upright Japanese Plum Yew has been around for a long time. It was introduced to the West by a German physician and botanist named Philipp Franz von Siebold in 1830. At the age of 27, von Siebold went to Japan to practice medicine and collect new plants. He was extremely successful on both accounts, introducing the Japanese to vaccinations and introducing a wealth of novel Asian plants to Europe. Unfortunately, he was caught with some maps of the country he wasn’t supposed to have and was kicked out of Japan after six years, accused of spying for Russia.
Elwyn Meader dedicated his life to giving the world useful new plants. He studied at the University of New Hampshire and at Rutgers; he would later return to New Hampshire to teach. He also served in the Army in Seoul from 1946 to 1948, though his role was a purely peaceful, horticultural one, as he was a devout Quaker. In all, Meader introduced 60 new plants through his breeding work, most of them edibles like the luscious Fallgold Raspberry and the Reliance Peach. He is best known, however, for the Miss Kim Lilac. He collected seeds for it when he was in Korea and introduced it in 1958.
Switch Grass is an American Fringe that is native to basically the whole country except for the West Coast states, Alaska, and Hawaii. It is most fondly associated with the midwestern tallgrass prairie, where it once stood shoulder-to-shoulder with perennial Sunflowers, Big Bluestem, and other prairie plants for miles in all directions. This particular selection was introduced by Wisconsin nurseryman Roy Diblik. Diblik collected seed from a plant growing by the railroad tracks near South Elgin, Illinois, in 1982. One seedling he grew from those seeds had a remarkably rigid, upright habit. He named it after his nursery, Northwind Perennial Farm.
Japanese Forest Grass is—you guessed it—native to the woodlands of Japan. Specifically, it is found in cool, moist mountain and forest regions on the main island of Honshu. The Japanese have long enjoyed this Fringe in the garden, primarily using it as a potted plant. The colorful selection known as Aureola is relatively new (at least to the U.S.), having arrived on our shores in the mid-1990s. Landscape designers and homeowners alike quickly fell in love with it. Now it’s hard to imagine that a shade garden is complete without it!
Feather Reed Grass is a naturally occurring hybrid Fringe native to Europe. It was correctly identified as a hybrid in the early 1900s by—you guessed it—Karl Foerster, a legendary German nurseryman. Foerster is remembered for defying the Nazis in WWII by hiring Jewish friends at his nursery. He also refused Nazi orders to grow only “pure,” native German plants—he simply grew the best plants he could find, no matter where they were from. This lovely Fringe is the most popular plant that bears his name. It can now be found in gardens around the world.
This species of Stonecrop, or Sedum, hails from China and Korea, where it is found on rocky slopes and forest edges. Over the years, particularly attractive selections have been introduced. One of these is ‘Brilliant’, with rich pink flowers. Brilliant has become a favorite among gardeners and growers. Recently, Richard Davis and Meriwether Payne were inspecting a crop of Brilliant Sedum at their Virginia nursery, the Ivy Farm, and noticed something unusual. One plant’s blooms were an even more vivid pink color than all the rest. It also had larger, more rounded flower clusters and a more compact habit. Neon was born.
Sometimes a new plant is simply discovered. Other times it takes years of deliberate breeding work for a new plant to come to fruition. In the case of First Choice Bluebeard, the latter was true. English nurseryman Peter Catt began sowing seeds in 1988 with a desire to develop a Bluebeard with a compact habit and strongly colored blue flowers. He raised five generations of plants, each time selecting the best of the best and getting a little closer to his goal. In 1992, he finally found success—First Choice was born. He had grown thousands of seedlings to produce one winning Spirit.
Botanically speaking, Arkansas Bluestar is a relatively new discovery, having first been described in 1942. It is native to a small region that extends from Arkansas to Oklahoma and was initially spotted by a man named Leslie Hubricht. Hubricht was a self-educated biologist whose formal education stopped after only one semester of high school. He was working at the Missouri Botanical Garden at the time of his discovery, though his true passion wasn’t plants, but mollusks. In fact, he named 81 new snails over the course of his studies! But we digress. Arkansas Bluestar languished in obscurity until about the 1990s, when it finally started to get the respect it deserved.
Catmint has a long history as an ornamental herb in gardens. Like many herbs, it was once believed to have magical powers, too—chewing on a Catmint root was said to give timid people courage! This species of Catmint is native to eastern Europe and northern Iran. Little Titch is a particularly fine example of the species selected for its petite habit and lovely lavender-blue blossoms. It was discovered at Four Seasons Perennials in Norfolk, England. To translate, “titch” is British slang for a small person or a tiny amount of something.
Autumn Fern hails from eastern Asia and is found in wooded hills in China, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. It is quite common in parts of Japan, growing almost like a groundcover. The Autumn Fern’s name is rather confusing, as its color is most vivid in spring, not autumn, although the cool weather of fall may deepen its bronzy hues. Perhaps this Spirit was named for the autumnal tones of its new foliage. The degree of coloration may vary from plant to plant. Brilliance is a special selection chosen for its particularly strong colors.
Ferns are ancient Spirits that date back to before the dinosaurs. These primitive plants lend a feeling of serenity to the garden, providing interest with simple greenery rather than fussy flowers. The Painted Fern is more colorful than most, with frosty green, silver, and burgundy pigments naturally present in wild populations. It’s native to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and northern China. An especially brilliant form from Japan has long been favored by gardeners, the Japanese Painted Fern. In 2003, Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina introduced this frilly variant of the Japanese Painted Fern. It originated at Apple Court Nursery in the U.K.
Ferns are ancient Spirits that existed with and long before dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Before there were flowering plants, there were ferns, and they took the shape of groundcovers, shrubs, and trees. Even today, ferns give an intriguing primitive feel to the landscape like no other plant can. They make a space seem quiet and serene, providing a welcome escape from your stressful modern day-to-day routine. This species of fern is native to not only Japan but also Korea, Taiwan, and northern China. The especially colorful “Painted” form probably originated in Japan long ago.