Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Scott Arboretum Snapshots - Townhouse Crape Myrtle, Western Redcedar, Prairie Dropseed, Japanese Falsecypress and more!

A couple of weeks ago, I visit the Scott Arboretum on the campus of Pennsylvania's Swarthmore College with my sister and my father. In fact, we were lucky enough to be able to visit on a day when the arboretum was offering one of its free monthly tours. (The dates for these tours are posted on the arboretum's calendar.)

The arboretum was established 85 years ago and today there are many beautiful mature trees.

I've got to say I'm a little jealous of the students, faculty and staff who get to spend so much time on this beautiful campus!

Here are a few of the plants at the arboretum that struck my fancy:

One bee, so many flowers... I think this is a magnificent clump of Stachys officinalis, a.k.a. Bettony (but I'm not 100% sure on my identification)

A stately Chamaecyparis pisifera "Filifera" (Japanese Falsecypress). I understand that this variety typically grows around 30-feet tall (per University of Kentucky). Clearly I just got a shot of the trunk here, but I'd guess this tree was taller than 30-feet. I was interested in how bare it appeared at the base, since in the other shots I've seen of this tree, the canopy seemed fuller all the way to the ground.
Beautiful bark and fluted trunk on a Cladastris kentuckea, American Yellowwood tree

And here's a shot of the sun-dappled Cladastris kentuckea canopy. Just a beautiful tree. Can't understand why American Yellowwood is not more popular in commerce. Perhaps because the tree reportedly doesn't start flowering until it's 8-10 years old? But I've never even seen a flowering American Yellowwood and I'm still smitten with the beauty of its other attributes.

Here's an interesting relatively large-scale planting of Sporobolus heterolepsis (Prairie Dropseed) used as a lawn alternative. I love the texture, although I don't know whether this 'lawn' can hold up to foot traffic. 

Thuja plicata "Excelsa", Western Redcedar, gorgeous feathery foliage on this evergreen. I was under the impression that T. plicata preferred cool and moist forest conditions in the Pacific Northwest, but it seemed to be thriving in this Pennsylvania arboretum. I'd love to hear from other gardeners in the East - especially the Southeast - who might have experience pro or con with this species. 

Japanese Crape Myrtle - Lagerstroemia fauriei "Townhouse" -- Not your typical crape myrtle (the usual species is L. indica), the Japanese Crape reportedly grows bigger (up to 40-60 feet tall), has fragrant flowers plus excellent resistance to powdery mildew and artistically exfoliating bark. These crapes weren't flowering when we visited in June. In the Mid-Atlantic, I'm guessing they probably don't flower until late summer (August?), but the foliage, form and bark were beautiful enough that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to any mid-Atlantic gardener who had the space. Like many places in the East, the Philadelphia area had a brutal winter in 2013-14 and this mature Townhouse crape apparently made it through unscathed. On the flip side, reportedly has the chops to withstand the heat and seasonal drought in Florida too. What a tree!