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sprig to twig » 2009 » March

Archive for March, 2009

Poncirus trifollata ‘Flying Dragon’

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Back in 2004, while I was volunteering at the HPSO spring plant sale, I fell for a most unusual tree. The specimen that caught my attention was a good 12′ tall, with curved, wicked-looking thorns of 2″ or more. Oddly, given HPSO’s penchant for truth in labeling, it bore only the label Hardy Orange ‘Flying Dragon’. The thorns did indeed evoke images of dragons’ claws. The adult tree was for display only, but there were several small ones for sale. Of course I came home with one.
Arriving home in early evening, I joined Richard on the deck for a glass of wine and sharing of the highlights of our days. Turns out, he had gone with his brother to the Chinese Garden in Northwest Portland. He began to tell me about an extraordinary tree he had seen there, but that the docent had declared it rare and hard to find. As he described it to me, recognition dawned. I interrupted his narrative to go to the car to retrieve my newly acquired treasure. Sure enough! We were talking about the selfsame tree. Serendipity, like minds…all of that, but the greatest lesson learned was that the HPSO plant sales, spring and fall, are a terrific place to find rare and unusual plants, as well as all the latest regular stuff.

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Poncirus is a slow grower, as you can see in the above recent photo (the bird bath establishes scale). I like it best during its dormant season, when the silhouette of twisty, thorny branches is clearly visible.

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A close-up gives a better sense of the pattern of individual branches. A horticultural friend transplanted from the East Coast tells me that, back there, they are used as hedgerows. Far from being discouraged, the deer plunge right through them, only to come out the other side much worse for the encounter. I could have told them that deer are a determined bunch.

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Last spring it put out blossoms for the first time. Can those bumpy green oranges be far behind? This is another of those endlessly interesting plants to watch, just to see what it will do next.

Stachyrus update

Monday, March 30th, 2009

The sun broke through for a few hours the other day. I went out to soak up a few rays and check on my current favorite. The few blossoms, which I chronicled a couple of posts back, were covered in butterflies: tiny little things (1″ wingspan at most) in colors to match the Stachyrus…butter yellow with a smattering of brown spots. It was a moment.

DOA (?)

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

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I keep telling myself it’s too early to know for sure. Still, when I look at my darling Acacia provissima, it surely does resemble a crispy critter. I had only seen small ones on garden tours, and was attracted to the jaggedy leaf patterns similar to the thorns on Rosa taracantha. It surprised me by growing to 12 or so feet in 3 years, making its placement less than ideal.

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Last April, it bloomed for the first time, meaning it will have to get a move on to recover in time for an encore.

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It weathered the storms of 2007 with some breakage from a heavy load of ice. That’s it on the left, with its long branchlets trailing into the bird bath. Perhaps the effects were cumulative, what with 2 weeks of snow and ice and lower than normal temperatures off and on for a couple of months.

I am trying to remain philosophical, noting that the skeletal remains will create a nice silhouette. I’m contemplating a coat of high-gloss paint in some shocking color…or perhaps something would consent to climb up through the branches (a clematis?). I will be sure to post here if there is a remarkable recovery.

Stachyrus praecox

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

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A long time ago, I spotted a photograph of a small tree dripping with long strings of golden beads. I cut the photo from the magazine and carried it around with me for years. Finally, in 2004, I found a small specimen at a Hardy Plant Society of Oregon sale. I gave it pride of place near a deck entry and waited for the magic to happen. It has been a long wait, and what you see here pales in comparison to the well-worn magazine clipping, but it’s a start. Not that it has been a disappointment in the meantime, mind you. Its bark is a lovely deep reddish shade…particularly fetching when partially obscured by snow:

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The leaves in autumn blush with pinkish russet hues, and it has already reached the minimum of its predicted height (6-10′). Still, when one is waiting for something to display its raison d’etre, it is difficult not to become impatient.

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Part of its charm is the way it flowers on bare branches. I may even look back on this debut as the high point, as when it hits its stride and smothers the tree in blooms, there will be less of this lovely contrast.

Now, if only that six year old magnolia would produce a flower or two…