Saturday, February 5, 2011

A redbud, is a redbud, is a Taiwan Cherry

Prunus campanulata The Taiwan Cherry
Winter has it's depths even along the northern Gulf Coast.  Many years it may only consist of a two week period in late January, yet we are nevertheless quite proud and boastful of our frigid temps, which we perceive as allowing us empathy for our friends up nawth.   It is during this coldest spell that the Taiwan Cherry buds begin to swell, bursting into bloom as a reminder of how brief our winters truly are.   Each year we have our very own winter cherry blossom festival seemingly reserved for those of us fortunate to live south of Atlanta and Birmingham.  

The dilemma garden centers face arises when a host of hibernating gardeners awaken and pour in asking for "redbuds."  After all ,the Taiwan Cherry sports magenta-red buds whereas our native redbud might more properly be called a "purplebud".  Surprisingly this does not lead to much confusion as we are all absolutely certain that our Asian friend, the Taiwan cherry, is indeed a native "redbud."  Our native redbud has unfortunately obliged in recent decades by declining in numbers rivaling the dissapearing dogwoods.

The Accuweather (now there's a gutsy name) forecast calls for a low next week of 20 degrees which will threaten this year's "cherry festival" for the first time in recent memory.  But the open flowers have a peculiar resistance to cold, often undamaged by temps in the mid twenties. That is one of the joys of the winter gardener-the daring optimism we share with the Taiwan cherry.

Use the cherry as you might a dogwood or other small tree. It is a fine specimen, but where room permits, a multi-trunked grove (as pictured) is especially beautiful.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Clark Griswold Moved in Next Door

Posted by PicasaYes, Clark retired from the food-additive business some years ago and he and Ellen moved south. In fact they are right next door to me. So it was natural for "Sparky" to ask what firs grow on the Gulf Coast. The answer is of course, the "Momi Fir" (Abies firma) and ur,well, the "Momi Fir". I gave him more information than he could possibly want. Abies firma is native to southern Japan, highly resistant to phytophthora root rot, has been grown successfully along the Gulf Coast for nearly 100 years, is a sturdy tree, though slow growing...-he stopped me there. "Slow!, how many lights can it hold at three years after planting?".   Clark's Momi Fir, pictured here at 15 years, has taught him the virtue of patience  and with his new LED lights and the cherry picker Ellen made him buy last year, our neighbor is the envy of tony, little Fairhope.

So why do we not see this tree everywhere in the south, proudly planted near the mailbox and covered each year with twinkle lights?  Like so many plants with potential it is not widely known. Nor is it widely grown in the nursery trade and for one reason-it is slow.  Criminy. That should actually be a good reason to grow it.

Take another look at the picture and imagine yet another ubiquitous Leyland Cypress in its place. You wouldn't see the porch.  The deep south is discovering a world of new conifers suited for the region and though hardly new, Momi Fir ranks among the elite.

Excuse me, I gotta get the door. Some guy in a green leisure suit just drove across the lawn in an old RV.