May 21, 2010

Baby Buckeyes

Aesculus parviflora

I have my heart set on a big swath of green between our back yard and the meadow.  I planted six Bottlebrush buckeyes in a row, to form a giant mounded hedge that will look like this some day, all loosely undulating and tiered:
These mature buckeyes wowed me on a visit to Wave Hill Garden in New York.  They're 12 feet high.

My row, planted in late fall 2007, looked like little lumps in a line in 2009:

In spring 2010 they are still dollops in the distance at the edge of the yard, but up close I now see lots of growth, and suckers forming between each individual plant.

Bottlebrush buckeyes bloom in bristly white spikes that leap straight up out of the greenery in June and look like - wait for it - bottlebrushes!

I actually had one single spike emerge last year on one of my baby buckeye plants.  And sure enough, later in the season, there were some buckeye nuts, hanging heavy on the spindly little branch.

The Bottlebrush buckeye is related to the big Ohio buckeye tree or horsechestnut.  Leaves look similar, nuts are similar, flowers are smaller (that's what parviflora means in Latin: smaller-flowered).  They will bloom well in shade and they may even prefer the moist shade that is their natural habitat in the woods.  But they flower best in full sun, and I have lots of that.  They really need extra water while establishing, they get very cranky about dry soil; the big palmate leaves let me know by going all limp.

The Bottlebrush buckeye doesn't get the awful leaf scorch that horsechestnut trees get in summer; instead, foliage stays deep green, changing to yellow in fall, and stays looking nice.  And of course it's a shrubby mounded form, not a tree.  Although for a shrub the Bottlebrush gets huge... about 12 or 15 feet high.

But while I'm waiting for mine to fill out, sucker and spread, I find myself giggling.  Jim and I can't help laughing as we view our baby buckeyes, because, well, they are just so gangly.  My immature plants are all splayed and rangy and goofy looking.  Most garden shrubs look like a smaller version of the mature plant - you just have to wait patiently for them to put on size.  But the Bottlebrush buckeyes are a fright:

They make me think of awkward colts trying to find their legs, or lanky young boys, all bones and limbs.  Their big droopy leaves make them look mopheaded and silly.

Really, you have to laugh.  Are these hula dancers in training?

Oh, how I long for them to grow out of their awkward stage.

Will my misbegotten leaf heaps ever look like this?  Yes they will:

Aesculus parviflora
in MoBot's database
in University of Connecticut's plant files


  1. They will be a beautiful sight when they fill out.

  2. Lisa, I do hope so! Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. It's hard to be patient, isn't it? lol Are they fast growers? I didn't know the first thing about buckeyes (well, until you just enlightened me, that is :) )

  4. I've always wanted to try these and now that I have a good spot for them I need to. There used to be a good stand under a beautiful old White Oak at the JC Raulston Arboretum.

    Those will make an excellent transition to what's beyond your yard.

  5. I think they look like they should all put their arms around each other and start doing the can can! :)

  6. I admire you for the vision and the patience. It will be a sight to see.

  7. Kyna, I really am trying to be patient as these start to fill out. Not so easy.

    Sweet bay, I hope you do put some in, and then post on them! I'd love to see someone else's efforts with these. They're hard to find at nurseries, I had to mail order mine.

    Garden Ms. S, I am hearing the can can song in my head ever time I go out in the back yard. I really can't stop laughing at all now.

    Tina, thanks for the encouragement!

  8. They look like middle school boys all stretched out and awkward! They'll be fabulous when they grown into "men." Thanks for sharing. Kelly

  9. Kelly, I do think of them as teen-aged galoomphs. Can't wait for them to grow up.

  10. oh geez. i just put 4 in for screen between us an neigbors. they're effectively twigs now. not realizing it would be DECADES to amount to much of anything. i thought they were supposed to be fast-ish growers. looks like i may have made (an expensive) mistake.


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