January 12, 2014

Queen Z

I have written about Zenobia pulverulenta before, but she is growing on me more and more each season.

It gets its botanical name and its common name, Dusty Zenobia, from the fact that the leaves are dusted with a silvery film.

The "Zenobia" part is horticultural fluff; that name came from a time when botanists named plants after Greek gods or random figures of antiquity. It was a fad for a while.

When this lovely little shrub, native to the southeastern US, was first named, Linnaeus put it into the andromeda family. There were hundreds of plants classified in the andromeda family -- so many look so similar -- and the class got unwieldy.

Later, in 1834, a Scots botanist, David Don, started taking apart the huge andromeda family of plants and creating new divisions, and he separated this one into its own class. Why he named it after an ancient queen in the mideast is a mystery.

Queen Zenobia was a third century queen of Syria, who staged a revolt against Rome and conquered Egypt and, well, you can read about her here. I'd rather get back to the horticultural queen Zenobia.

Here you can see the powdery gray blue coating, which is what the "pulverulenta" part of her name means: powdery:

New leaves emerge delicately tinged in red. Everything about this plant is refined, so I can see why a queenly label seemed appropriate. Although the real queen Zenobia was a rebel and a conqueror and not at all delicate in her dealings.

She holds her leaves in winter and looks great against snow. Some years the leaves turn a rich russet and stay through the winter, other years they remain green. I have always liked the unusual leaves close up, and the tiny white blueberry-bell blossoms in spring.

But this year I saw that the little flowers turn to silver berries, and I really like that. I don't know why, but I had not noticed that before, or maybe this is the first year it set fruit.

I'm also noticing that the whole plant shines from a distance, making a nice light contrast in a border that draws the eye.

I am seeing for the first time that it develops a graceful loose form which I like. This one is under a viburnum that I have limbed up, and a groundcover persicaria with pink wands weaves around and through it.

I have two other zenobias under a birch tree. Their woodsy look goes well under trees. In fall the blue  powdery cast is not as noticeable, and the plant glows with subtle copper tints.

Mine are all 'Woodlanders Blue', which has a lighter glaucus leaf color. The species is a medium green, not as dusty looking. I got mine from Woodlanders Garden, which introduced the blue-leaved cultivar. They are a mail order nursery in South Carolina that I like -- the plants from them are big and beautiful and well packaged.

(Be careful in searching for them -- it is Woodlanders dot net.  Woodlanders dot com is something else entirely.)

I am discovering new reasons to like Dusty Zenobia. It is growing on me each season, and I think of her as royalty in my humble garden. Queen Z.

James Golden also admires this plant and did a great post on growing zenobia in wet clay on his blog View From Federal Twist.

 

24 comments:

  1. Such pretty foliage, and the blue berries add another attraction--I can see why you have become fond of this shrub, Laurrie. I'd never heard of it before, so I looked it up on MOBOT's website. They mentioned it grows well in boggy soil. Do you have yours in a wet or dry area? I have mostly dry shade, though some springs everything is a bog here:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose, mine is not growing in boggy conditions. It is in mostly sun in regular garden soil, planted with roots of competing plants. It does well, although maybe it would be much larger in a boggy wet area.

      Delete
  2. I'm sold! I love that dusty blue coloring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather, the dusty blue is subtle and really interesting. Get "Woodlander's Blue' for the most glaucus effect.

      Delete
  3. How on earth did I miss this plant? I have never even heard of it. It looks beautiful and may even work in my yard. Definitely on my list now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, I absolutely love introducing people to new plants. This could work in your wet boggy garden!

      Delete
  4. Gosh is she just stunning! And yes the contrast in your garden is spectacular! And the shape of this plant is outstanding! I am a huge believer in form being one of the most important elements in the garden to create a cohesive flow...and this beauty has it!!! I will be looking into this one for sure! WOW! A happy week to you!!! NIcole

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nicole, I agree about form, it is the key element in a design. This plant has a subtle, interesting form and that's what I love about it!

      Delete
  5. I am lovin that foliage. She could reign over a space in my garden. I would be delighted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, royalty in your garden would be perfect : )

      Delete
  6. My first thought was, Wow, I have got to do some more research on this plant; but I decided to comment before I flew off on tangents. It really is a gorgeous plant with very nice foliage and berries. I think I will remember Zenobia; it is a royal name that rolls off the tongue, and my brain may cling to it longer than some unremarkable or unpronounceable name. Maybe David Don knew what he was doing when he named it, after all! Now, I am off to see if it could grow for me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deb, I think zenobia would be wonderful in your "elegant woods" (that's how I think of your designed woodland space.) It's a southeastern native and should do well where you are. I am pushing it a bit up north, but it does like my acid soil.

      Delete
  7. Laurrie, thank you for your great guidance on my blog! I have studied your West Walk countless times (just check your blog stats ) and have been thinking either fothergilla or NJ Tea for behind the evergreen pyramid-- have considered ninebark, but I'm waiting to see what appeals when I put things together in the nursery in the spring. I'd probably have to coppice it to keep it in line and I'm not sure how warmly it would take to that. I try to include a number of natives because I love flying guests in the yard & want to do my bit for a world that is getting rapidly paved over. Always love looking at your pictures, a refreshment to the spirit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Larkspur, thanks for the kind compliments, I love to think that somebody studies my plantings : )

      I think a ninebark won't work, not because of size but more because it is a rangy shrub and its wild look doesn't fit a foundation garden with the structure of the house behind it. But out in your open yard near evergreens -- that's a great place for a ninebark. I'm glad to hear you are planting a lot of natives!

      Delete
  8. This is a lovely shrub, Laurrie, one I would enjoy. I'm asking my usual question ... deer resistance? I refuse to plant anything outside of my fenced in area that is not highly deer resistant. Enough of my plantings have already gone to feeding deer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joene, deer have never touched this plant. My only issue has been that some years it gets a leaf spot fungus in late summer and looks a little sparse and somewhat defoliated. But they recover and last year I had no issues. Zenobia wants moist (even boggy) acid soil. Mine are in regular garden conditions with slightly acid soil and do well. I do think this shrub belongs in your garden!

      Delete
  9. It's really bright plant Laurrie! I've never heard about Zenobia and thank you for information!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nadezda, I love to make people aware of new plants that they can grow but did not know about!

      Delete
  10. I have thought about getting this plant for a few years now. What am I waiting for? It reminds me of a miniature blueberry.

    I also wanted to say I can't get over how well your ground covers grow! In the south it always seems like a wet season or Bermuda grass spoils things and breaks the ground cover up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sweetbay, ground covers do well here. All of my soil is new, since we started with a blank builder's lot and had to create gardens, so plants here are not competing with centuries of seeds in the seed bank. You're right about zenobia looking like a little blueberry!

      Delete
  11. Sheesh! Now you turn me on to another must-have plant. And from one of my favorite mail-order enablers. Oh, well, what can I do. Dot net, here I come.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lee, So glad to introduce you to a new plant! Happy shopping.

      Delete
  12. I visited Woodlanders when I lived in SC. It's tucked into the extended property behind a home in a residential section, surrounded by a really tall fence. If you didn't know it was a nursery, you'd think it was just someone's house with a huge garden. I think I've seen this in the wild. I like that it has a made up name. Poor Carl Linnaeus is probably rolling in his grave. :o) Very pretty shrub!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tammy, that's interesting to know what the Woodlanders nursery is like -- they were very easy people to deal with and their plants were great. I would do more ordering from them, but plants grown that far south can be tricky for me up here. But I had to have their zenobias!

      Delete

Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.