July 25, 2011
What's Not to Love?
I put a row of very small mail order plants in the ground in late fall, 2007. They grew like gangbusters over the next three years, and had a few brown spiky attempts at flowers last summer. They even produced a couple chestnut shaped buckeye nuts from those immature flowers.
But this year, for the first time, the flowers are bursting into giant white fluffy candles that look like someone lit them on fire in the evening light. They really are impressive, and they are starting to shoot up all over.
Now don't laugh at this gangly row of buckeyes. As young plants these are the most ungainly, floppy, unshapely shrubs I've ever seen. The leaves are great big droopy palmate paddles, the branching is what I can only call exuberant, and now the spiky tall bottlebrushes exploding out everywhere add even more awkwardness. I love it.
This row will mature into a massive, dense 10 to 12 foot high hedge over time that will stop the meadow from coming into the yard. Specimens I have seen in public gardens are awesome. They lose their youthful ungainliness and become stately.
Can you imagine a row of giant, fully mature bottlebrush buckeyes covered in zooming, lit up flower spikes in July? I can, now that I am seeing what these gawky adolescent plants can do.
Aesculus parviflora has been amazingly forgiving in my garden. They are understory woodland plants that like shade, and of course I have them lined up at the edge of a meadow in full sun. They need a lot of water to fund all that growth, and we have had hot dry summers last year and this year so far.
Voles nest in the dense suckering branches at the base and strip the bark mericlessly, but the shrubs survive and just make more suckers. Bottlebrush buckeyes are one of the very few plants in my garden that deer do not nibble or even sample.
To all the deer reading this blog: please, please, do not let that be an invitation. Now that I have mentioned how resistant they are, I do not want to see any bucks eyeing these plants. *
Unlike buckeye trees, called horse chestnuts, the leaves do not get that terrible scorch problem late in the season that make the Aesculus trees planted all over European cities look brown and tired, although mine do singe and crinkle a little at the edges all summer because I have them in too much sun.
In fall the big leaves turn a neon yellow, mixed with lingering green, that makes them look like they dressed up for a Halloween party in clown costumes.
I ask you, what is not to love about such a funny, tolerant, enthusiastic, entertaining personality in the garden.
* you got it, right?
Just so you know, Aesculus is called buckeye because the nuts are brown and somewhat crescent shaped and look like the big brown eyes of a deer. Sort of, I guess.