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Mystery plants, dogwood, itea, and more

May 23, 2021 at 8:45 p.m.

Empress of China evergreen dogwood, Cornus angustata was a new addition to my garden last fall. I bought it in the summer at Custom Landscape in Mt. Vernon, but didn’t get it in the ground until fall. It had flower buds heading into fall.

It is supposed to be evergreen, but it looked pretty sad after the cold weather. I actually thought I might have lost it, but it bounced back with full glossy leaves this spring. The flowers opened, looking like small greenish white kousa blooms.

I was a tad underwhelmed. Each week though, the flowers get a bit larger and whiter.

Supposedly they produce large showy red fruits similar to kousa dogwoods. Time will tell. At maturity it is only supposed to be about 15 feet tall. Mine has limbs to the ground line with flowers on all of them. Protection from the mid-day sun would be best. Many of you guessed kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa). It does have similar shaped blooms, but kousa is a deciduous species and produces larger leaves and a larger mature tree.

Itea virginica, ‘Little Henry’,

commonly called Virginia sweetspire, is a native deciduous shrub. Little Henry is the more compact version of the standard Itea. I wanted a more compact form, but mine is quite vigorous, and quite happy in full sun with poor soil. It is even more vigorous in moist areas. The standard variety grows 5- 6 feet tall and wide. Mine was supposed to be smaller, but it easily 4 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide and spreading. It is stunning in bloom with these showy white, fragrant blooms in late spring/early summer.

Then in the fall, the leaves turn a brilliant red before they shed.

I overlook its spreading, by sharing with friends. It will grow in full sun to partial shade. A few people guessed this to be Summersweet or clethra

—a similar native species which we gave away at our state MG conference in Ft. Smith. Clethra is also fragrant, but blooms about a month later.

'Aphrodite' calycanthus

'Aphrodite' is a hybrid between our native Calycanthus floridus

and the Asian species, xSinocalycanthus

  1. The flowers are almost twice the size of the native species, and bloom for a much longer time. In my garden, I will have blooms for up to 8 weeks. Some say they have fragrance, but mine has none. It is a vigorous plant, and where I have it, I do prune it pretty heavily after it flowers.

Left unpruned it could reach 7 feet or more in height with a 6–8-foot spread. It does bloom on new growth, so pruning after flowering doesn’t impact blooms at all. It is deciduous. It will grow in full sun, but in the south, I think full morning sun or dappled sunlight works well. It is deciduous but a showstopper in my garden.

Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) and impatiens.

Persian shield is a summer annual native to Burma.

In the ground it can grow 4-5 feet tall and about 3 feet wide, but will stay smaller in a container. The foliage takes on a metallic sheen with deep purple and silver color backed by green.

The dark color is offset by the hot pink and white of this variegated common impatiens.

Both like partial shade and ample water.


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