Plant of the Day - Chlorophytum cf. bowkeri

This clumping cousin of the ubiquitous spider plant houseplant is proving to be an outstanding landscape plant.
This clumping cousin of the ubiquitous spider plant houseplant is proving to be an outstanding landscape plant.

It is always fun to find a hardy species in what I otherwise think to be a tropical genus and I'm not alone as evidenced by the fascination in the last decade with hardy scheffleras.  This particular plant, Chlorophytum cf. bowkeri, or African snake lily as it is known to the 10's of people familiar with it in the US is a close relative of the spider plant that hangs listlessly in the corner of dentist offices.  The houseplant is typically grown in its variegated form where its plantlets cascade down like young spiders.  African snake lily is not like this cousin which spreads vigorously.  Instead it forms a lovely clump of stiff, bluish-green foliage.  In late summer into fall it sends up a stiff flower scape to about 4.5' with dainty, white, star shaped flowers that open from the bottom up.  The plant hails from southern Africa.  We've been growing ours in full sun where it has thrived but it would probably grow as well in part shade.  Hardiness is a bit uncertain but it should be fine to at least warm zone 7 gardens.  There is some question as to the correct identity of this plant, it was received as C. colubrinum but it does not match that description.

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The flowers are a welcome addition to the late season garden and would combine well with flowering gingers and tall asters.
The flowers are a welcome addition to the late season garden and would combine well with flowering gingers and tall asters.

Check out all the happenings, see more images, and learn more at the JC Raulston Arboretum where we are Planting a Better World.

Plant of the Day - Sassafras tzumu, Chinese Sassafras

Plant of the Day - Sassafras tzumu, Chinese Sassafras

ARB-LogoBFin One of our most loved eastern North American trees is the sassafras (Sassafras albidum).  Much less well known is its Chinese counterpart, Sassafras tzumu.  Growing across much of southern China, it makes a tall tree to over 100' tall in open woodlands and forest edges.  In cultivation it typically is more of a medium sized tree, growing to 35'-60' in 20 years.  When grown in the open, it has a distinctly tiered habit, much like some species of dogwoods.  Late winter to early spring flowers are clusters of small gold blooms at the tip of each branch.  In full flower, Chinese sassafras is as showy as any spring flowering tree and resembles a large Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas and C. officionalis).  The leaves emerge with a touch of burgundy before becoming large and green with the typical sassafras foliage shapes - ovate, mitten-like, and tri-lobed.  Sassafras has separate male and female plants so the blue-black fruits are rarely formed unless 2 trees are grown in proximity to each other.  On occasion, typically male plants will put out some female flowers and form fruit.  Fall color is spectacular and among the best for southern gardens.  After the leaves drop, stout yellow-green branches provide some measure of winter interest.

A Chinese sassafras in full flower is hard to beat.

Pollinators appreciate the showy flowers as well.

Fall color can be spectacular.

Sassafras tzumu growing wild in the Nanling Mountains in China.

A snowfall highlights the tiered, open habit of Chinese sassafras.

The blue fruit of Sassafras tzumu.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

Check out all the happenings, see more images, and learn more at the JC Raulston Arboretum where we are Planting a Better World.

Our Favorite Places - Quarryhill Botanical Garden

Our Favorite Places - Quarryhill Botanical Garden

ARB-LogoBFin Every garden is different but few public gardens are truly unique.  Quarryhill Botanical Garden is certainly an exception to this rule.  Quarryhill's goal of "advancing the conservation, study, and cultivation of the flora of Asia," has led them to create a beautiful garden that displays one of the largest collections of documented wild-collected Asian plants in the world.  The plants are displayed throughout much of the garden in naturalistic settings unlike most gardens that strive to create order out of nature.

Quarryhill manages to capture the serene beauty of a wild Asian mountainside.

The garden began in earnest in 1987 when the founder, Jane Davenport Jansen, sent the first of many expeditions to Asia.  The young plants were planted on the hillsides above the vineyards of wine country in California.  The garden was the former site of a series of quarries giving rise to the garden's name.  The abandoned rubble and rocky ground is certainly a challenge for gardening but the beauty of water-filled excavation sites and waterfalls provides a picturesque backdrop for the collections.

The beauty of the land is only enhanced by the plant collections.

Leading the efforts of the garden for most of its existence has been Bill McNamara a well-known expert on the flora of Asia who straddles the divide between botanists and gardeners bringing the best of both disciplines to bear on his work.  Bill was made a field associate of the Department of Botany, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, and an honorary researcher of the Scientific Information Center of Resources and Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2000. In 2001 he became an associate member of the joint Chinese-American Committee for the Flora of China. In 2006, Bill was made an international advisor for Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. He has been the curator of the Crombie Arboretum since 2003. Bill has a Master’s degree in conservation biology and is also a member of the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum Horticulture Advisory Committee. He received the Garden Club of America’s Eloise Payne Luquer Medal in 2009 and received the prestigious 2010 Scott Medal and Award from the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. He was the recipient of the California Horticultural Society Annual Award in 2012. In 2013, he received the Award of Excellence from the National Garden Clubs.

Bill McNamara has spent 26 years studying and collecting plants in Asia.

We are thrilled here at the JC Raulston Arboretum to have Bill back to share some of his collected wisdom, keen insights, and dry wit for our Winter Symposium.  Bill was one of the highlights of our 30th Anniversary celebration and participants have been requesting his return.  Bill and I have had several conversations over the years about the diversity of roses throughout Asia and their potential to transform the modern landscape rose.  Quarryhill has created perhaps the only garden dedicated to the wild roses that have given rise to our modern selections.  As the JCRA celebrates the soon-to-be-finished Finley-Nottingham Rose Garden, I could think of no better person to be here for our "Stop and Smell the Roses" symposium on February 21, 2015.

Jiang Entian Chinese Heritage Rose Garden at Quarryhill Botanical Garden was dedicated in 2012.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

Stop and Smell the Roses all through 2015 at the JC Raulston Arboretum.

Check out all the happenings, see more images, and learn more at the JC Raulston Arboretum where we are Planting a Better World.

Tibetan prayer flags add to the Asian ambiance of the garden.