Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Foliage: Aralia cordata 'Sun King'

Please help me welcome one of the newest additions to my garden: 'Sun King' Aralia!

I have a confession to make: this isn’t my first try with this plant. The first one I got from Asiatica Nursery (now closed) and I let it dry out too much before I could even get it in the ground. I purchased this one at the Flower Factory this spring. They seem to be the only local source so far, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it.
This variety was discovered as an ornamental cultivar in Japan, and it’s still pretty new to the trade here in the US. Aralia cordata is a relatively hardy plant to zone 4, so I believe that this should have no problem with winter hardiness. I’m exited about it because it has the potential to grow pretty large… the straight species is downright huge, getting up to eight feet tall and wide (or more?!?). The jury’s out as to how large Sun King will get… one commercial grower’s claiming only 3 by 3 feet, others think it will get big like the wild variety.
The best feature of this plant is the bold, gold foliage that’s lighting up a dark space under my oak trees. I planted it next to Aralia racemosa, which is Sun King’s slightly smaller American cousin.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Get out your clippers!

It’s time to start cutting! Now until the end of June is the best time to prune spring-flowering shrubs and ornamental trees. That includes lilacs, forsythia, crabapples, flowering plums and pears, azaleas, mock orange, and viburnums, as well as anything else woody that blooms before July. On lilacs, remove the spent blossoms and trim back branches to maintain their shape. On shrubs like forsythia, it’s best to cut back the largest branches to the ground to encourage new healthy growth.
            This is also the time to trim back summer blooming perennials that get leggy. Phlox, bee balm (Monarda), joe-pye weed, taller Sedum, mums, and asters can all benefit from pinching back at this point, both to control height and to encourage branching and more flowers.

With all of these shrubs and perennials, it’s important to stop pinching/pruning after June, because that’s when the plants will start producing flower buds. Yes, that’s the shrubs too… they produce their flower buds the summer and fall of the season prior to blooming.

So, get out there and garden!