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French Mystery Plants Revealed

by Janet Carson | February 13, 2021 at 12:41 p.m.

Mystery plants this past week were from our River Cruise on the Seine from Paris to Normandy and back in May 2015.

We toured some beautiful gardens, had luxurious accommodations, learned a lot of French history, ate amazing food and made great new friends. River cruising is a spectacular way to travel.

Deutzia -Deutzia gracilis is a beautiful deciduous shrub that is underused in our gardens. We have seen a lot of these shrubs throughout the UK and other parts of Europe.

Native to Asia, is actually in the hydrangea family, but much more carefree than most hydrangeas. It has fragrant white or pink blooms

for about 2-3 weeks in the spring. I guess the downside to the bush, is it is showy for only a little while, and doesn’t have anything else unique after flowering. It will do best in full sun, but it will tolerate partial shade. There are standard varieties which can grow up to 10 feet tall or dwarf varieties that reach no taller than 2-3 feet tall. There are now variegated and even yellow-foliaged forms available.

It is deer resistant as well.

Little Leaf Linden – Tilia cordata,

is often called Lime tree in England. The first time I went to England, the guide kept talking about all the lime trees, and I didn’t see one in sight--until I learned their common name for Tilia. Lindens are in the mallow family. The deciduous trees if left unpruned can grow to 60 feet tall or more, but they are often trimmed into hedges in formal gardens, which they tolerate quite well.

Native to Europe, it is used extensively as a street tree or in formal gardens in Europe and the UK. It blooms in the summer and bees adore the flowers—in bloom, it almost seems the tree is humming.

The flowers are born in clusters of 5-7 blooms out of a long narrow pale green bract.

Parrot’s Beak - Lotus berthelotii or Lotus maculatas

–– is native to the Canary Islands, where it is an endangered perennial. This would be an annual for us in Arkansas. It would not fare well in the heat of our summer, with best flowering be in the cool weather of spring or fall. I took this picture at Monet’s garden. I am sure, that like me, when you hear the name Lotus you think of the water garden plant with huge flowers.

That is the common name for Nelumbo, and the two plants are not related at all. See how common names can trip you up?! The Canary Islands are home to four species of Lotus, but today they are all at risk for extinction. You can find Lotus berthelotii for sale in California, and Allen Owings said he got one in Florida and it overwintered in Louisiana. It is pretty with the coloring of a marigold, but with quite distinct blooms and feathery foliage.

Davidia involucrate is commonly called the Dove Tree or Handkerchief tree.

It is in the same family as our Blackgum tree, but a lot more difficult to grow. Many gardeners have attempted to grow the Dove Tree in Arkansas, and while some have limited success in getting them to survive, flowering can be even more of a challenge. The trees are notorious for being slow to flower, taking 10-15 years from seed to bloom, and unlike other trees, that once they flower, do so annually, this one is hit or miss even when it does begin to bloom. It gets the common name Dove Tree because the two large white bracts surrounding the blooms resemble a dove. Native to China, the tree can grow to be 35 feet tall. In Arkansas, it would be best in a well-drained, soil with some afternoon shade. It is not drought tolerant, so water as needed.

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