Morris Arboretum – Winter Interest

I recently took a mid-winter stroll through Morris Arboretum and wanted to point out five things that show great winter interest during a time when most of the garden is dormant.

  1. Wintersweet [Chimonanthus praecox]. It was the best smelling fragrance at the garden that day! Small yellow bell-like flowers that look nice en masse. Native to China and often planted in trilogy with bamboo and pine to create the cultural winter visual of “three friends in snow”, which i imagine creates create combinations in texture and color against a white backdrop. Apparently the flowers are edible and have medicinal properties.
  2. Waterlocust [Gleditsia aquatica].  While G. triacanthos var. inermis [thornless] has become popular in high profile landscapes due to its excellent ability to provide filtered light in urban areas, I never learned about this relative until stumbling upon it on the wet areas near the pond. As its common name and even botanic name implies, Waterlocust is native to the southeastern US in river swamps and slough margin habitats, and can even be found northward for suitable sites such as the arboretum pond. My personal winter interest in this Fabaceae family legume tree is the enormous thorns that grow directly on the trunk and base of tree, creating shapes that are seldom seen elsewhere in the winter landscape to this degree. I would love to further explore the cultural uses of this tree.
  3. Farges Filbert [Corylus fargesii]. There’s nothing more dramatic than the catkins blowing in the wind. Offers great movement, either from afar or close up. Also impressive is the exfoliating bark. I’d take this over paperbark maple any day!
  4. Hellebores. There were plenty around the garden on my visit and the warm tones of the flower parts were welcomed on this somewhat chilly day.
  5. And before my 20 minutes wraps up, I can’t leave Morris in the winter without mentioning the witch hazels! The varieties looking good this week included the straight yellow H. mollis, H. vernalis ‘Christmas Cheer’ and ‘Carnea’ both with an excellent fragrance and color, decent color on H. virginiana [common witchazel], and especially popping with a two-tone color was H. x intermedia ‘Vesna’ as well as yellow friend ‘Luna’. Also, check out my photos for the purple flowered ‘Brotzman’s No. 1’.

And, I can’t leave this post without quickly mentioning phenology. With the advent of built in timestamps and ITPC core metadata into today’s digital cameras and smartphones, phenology tracking has become a breeze! It will be interesting to see when then same plant bloom next time around…

Check out my site photos here

UPDATE 8/28/2017 to fold this post into the America’s Garden Capital series


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