Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nifty Ninebarks

I like ninebarks (Physocarpus opulifolius). We use many varieties around the gardens primarily for their colorful foliage although flower interest and fall color can also be assets worthy of additional consideration.  Above is the Diabolo ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo') at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI).  These images shows the real form of two mature ninebarks which is quite open and arching.  When in full bloom, this selection is almost cascading.  All too often, I see ninebarks cut back in to hedges or spheres and they never achieve their full "potential of form" in the landscape.  Considered "coarse textured" by many, I think their informality is an asset as is the colorful foliage.  That being said, it's vital to accommodate the mature size of your selection.  A member of the Rosaceae family, common ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) is native to a good portion of eastern North America and gets its name from the peeling, flaky bark (marginally ornamental).  This is one tough shrub although powdery mildews on the foliage have been a problem in recent years but can be addressed as needed.  I'll chat more about these super shrubs further along in the blog.

We had another productive Thursday both inside and out.  Urban was out pruning all morning and Larry went out for additional snow removal after we received a light dusting over night.  My trip to and from Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) last night was smooth and my presentation on The Moonlit Garden went well.  Dr. Gredler (directly below) continued his re-sealing efforts on these redwood bench tops which we use for our plant sales.  Dick H. (second photo down) continues to cut and bend 3/4" wide strap aluminum for our plant stakes.  He processes three heights that we use throughout the gardens.  Pat (third photo down) really painted himself in to a tight spot this morning!  He's touching up his corner supports for our giant obelisk (formerly the tower of power in the lights show) and came back in the afternoon for some carpentry work.  Dave (fourth photo down), Jim and Gene all worked on sanding benches.  Vern was in to stain some benches and we also saw both Bill O.'s, Mary W. and many others. Janice worked on more plant sale research and Gary worked on data entry for more signs and troubleshooting some tweaks we need on our laser engraver.  Jenny E. popped in and true to form, has most of the annual labels entered and ready to go.  I had a meeting and bounced between multiple projects.

Back to ninebarks.  Above are some close-ups of the ninebark flower clusters (Diabolo and Summer Wine respectively) which are quite showy but only last about 2-3 weeks or so.  However, the flowers later transition to colorful follicle clusters (fruiting structures) as seen directly below.  Fall color may come later in the season but is particularly an asset on the maroon-foliage forms that turn a brilliant crimson.  Yellow foliage varieties are simply yellow with green foliage selections turning chartreuse.  There have been many new varieties offered over the past couple of years including smaller maroon varieties for the home scale.  If you can't fit Diabolo in the yard at 10' tall, why not go for Summer Wine ('Seward'), Lady In Red ('Tuilad') or 'Ruby Spice' at 5-6' tall or now Little Devil ('Donna May') at 3' tall?  The golden varieties ('Dart's Gold', 'Nugget', 'Morning Star' and Lemon Candy ('Podaras 3') are nice as well, particularly with the brightest of golden growth in early spring.  The crossing of maroon varieties with golden varieties has created some nice "orangey" forms like Coppertina ('Mindia') and Amber Jubilee ('Jefam') although the best orange shades are in spring with some foliage darkening towards maroon in the heat of the summer. We actually have been cutting most of our ninebarks back severely every early winter to encourage new growth the following year.  Cutting ninebarks to 6" will result in 4-5' of fresh growth in spring and this rejuvenation would also be effective for larger, overgrown specimens. Some of my favorite selections are included below but there are many nice varieties worthy of consideration.  There are some green-leaved varieties but their only interest is with the blooms (my opinion).  Select ninebarks for colorful foliage and specific size.  Not pictured below, consider also looking for 'Morning Star' (chartreuse), Amber Jubilee ('Jefam'), Lemon Candy ('Podaras 3') and 'Center Glow'.  These all have nice features worthy of research and consideration.  

Diabolo ('Monlo') follicle clusters
Diabolo ('Monlo') fall color
Summer Wine ('Seward')
'Nugget' at the Morton Arboretum
'Nugget' at the Morton Arboretum
'Dart's Gold'
Coppertina ('Mindia')
Coppertina ('Mindia') at Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Coppertina ('Mindia') fall color
Lady In Red ('Tuilad') spring growth
Lady In Red ('Tuilad')
Lady In Red ('Tuilad') fall color
'Ruby Spice'
'Ruby Spice'
Little Devil ('Donna May')
Little Devil ('Donna May')

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