Buffalo, NY soils lean towards being a clay loam but ceratinly have a wide range of properties as deposited by the glacier years ago. Callicarpa always seems to perform regardless of its site or location. Its uniquely colored berries are its design queue.
It will often have its branches die back from cold in the winter and we'll probably find it tidyest to treat it as a cut back shrub. I think this tendency keeps it relegated to the plant hipster world as this added maintenance demand becomes anxiety producing in the realm of "low maintenance" landscapes.
Callicarpa is in a special grouping of plants for me. It was hot in the late nineties and early 2000's when I was working with Dee. There is a whole field of plants that we agreed were cool at the time but have never really taken off beyond our relationship. Others in this regime would be Corylopsis, Corydalis, Dicentra, Acer griseum, and Cercis - the list would double with some work but I'm trying to point toward groupings of plants and materials that always evoke a memory and association with something or someone.
Nothing boosts a plants popularity quite like being named the Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerester' was that plant in 2001, 14 years ago. Since then its use has proliferated to the point that its lost its edgyness.
But. Who cares.
It grows pretty much anywhere - although its ornamental value in the shade will be close to "none." Its tight vertical lines are always architecturally useful and bring a contrast to any border. The straw colorings of its seed heads take till mid-season to show - but to those of us who see browns as a color it is a quality go to.
Its widespread use I believe to be in the public and commercial garden - not necessarily home gardens, so there is still design terrain to explore for some. In the above image the grass is on a commercial site flanked in a entry planting by 'Woodwardii' Arborvitae and underplanted with Nepeta 'Dropmore.'
These three specimans are a couple blocks from the warehouse. I've driven by them each day for a week and this morning, having a minute to spare, I stopped in for the photo capture.
Obviously these are quality specimans. But my interest is in their rate of success. Every time I see Golden Arbs (Thuja occidentalis "Aurea" ?) they are thriving...and, well that means they always have this super course foliage that is their prize.
I think Arborvitae is an outstanding speciman tree. It is native to WNY and you can find pure stands of them in wooded areas where they are reaching 40'+ tall. In landscapes they seem to be always relegated to hedging - but this limits the full potential of the plant.
I first learned of this plant on a plant exchange trip I was sent on to Bath, Maine. I brought a schlippenbachii home for Annette's garden as I loved the suttle leaf coloration, texture, and planar architecture of the small shrub. That was 9 years ago. The plant is still alive, but far from thriving. (Note: Annette has a tendency to prune, transplant, and order the health right out of all her plants)
The plant above I found in inventory at Urban Roots Garden Center in May. Certainly a rare find in a garden center. It is reputed as "difficult to establish" according to my friend Deanna. I think this one seems to be doing well after the first 4 months (😜 Dee). We'll see how the winter goes.
In a way I feel odd - but totally hyped - to be building a deck. This is Buffalo Horticulture's first one. But. Its not my first. If one grew up in the landscape world through the 1980's, deck building was a basic skill set a landscaper brought to the jobsite. As fashions swung towards concrete pavers, decks fell out of favor as did the skill set. The last deck I participated in its construction was probably 1986 or 1987. I would've been 12 years old.
The problem I'm trying to confront and resolve: to speak of this, am I being nostalgic for a time when decks were built? Or am I making a critique suggesting that specific skills have disappeared?
Landscape designer and Proprietor of Buffalo Horticulture