Rare Plants

See also: Native PlantsTrees and Shrubs
Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay magnolia) is not widely planted in gardens nor often available commercially, which is a shame because it is a beautiful native tree. Flowers are like mini-versions of Magnolia grandiflora, only 3"-4" across. Its smaller leaf structure allows sweetbay magnolia to fit into most gardens more gracefully than bigleaf magnolia.

Sweet bay magnolia virginiana - native tree

Magnolia virginiana - The sweetbay magnolia is a worthy addition to any garden. Click for larger.

Magnolia virginiana is most commonly called sweetbay magnolia, or sweetbay. Perhaps my favorite common name is beaver tree. As one might imagine with a name like beaver tree, Magnolia virginiana likes soils that are wetter than average.

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See also: Trees and Shrubs, Kousa dogwood
Cornus eliptica (also known as Cornus kousa angustata) is rarely seen in gardens, yet the flowers that come late in the season are as beautiful as those of any dogwood. Sometimes offered as an evergreen dogwood, Cornus eliptica may or may not hold its leaves through winter.

Cornus kousa angustata

Cornus eliptica (Cornus kousa angustata). Rare and beautiful dogwood. Click for larger.

Native to China, this beautiful flowering dogwood was introduced to the United States in 1980 by Dr. Theodore R. Dudley (National Arboretum).

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See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
The flowers of native perennial Parthenium integrifolium (wild quinine, American feverfew) look like miniature cauliflower, or perhaps cotton. Perfect in a cottage, meadow, or prairie garden, wild quinine has a long period of bloom, typically eight weeks or so.

wild quinine

Parthenium integrifolium - wild quinine - native perennial. Click for larger.

American feverfew's flowers are not showy when considered individually. Each flower bud borders on tiny, perhaps 1/4"-1/2" across at most, and are borne in large clusters of 50-100.

Continue reading ‘Wild Quinine – Parthenium integrifolium’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Known as indian pink or indian pinkroot, Spigelia marilandica is a somewhat rare native perennial of great ecological and aesthetic value. Indian pink is attractive to hummingbirds and is a long-flowering herbaceous perennial that will grow in the shade garden.

indian pinkroot, indian pink

Indian pink - Spigelia marilandica

Indian pink is native to a large portion of the southeastern United States. I've seen Spigelia marilandica growing and flowering happily in the garden in heavy shade, and it is beautiful at the edge of woodland areas where morning sun or filtered light brings out the best in the maroon-red flowers.

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See also: Native Plants
Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) has the largest flowers and leaves of any native plant in North America. If you live in the southeastern United States, you can find Magnolia macrophylla growing as an understory tree in the Appalachian mountains.

bigleaf magnolia

Magnolia macrophylla (bigleaf magnolia). Click for larger.

Magnolia macrophylla is also known as large-leaved cucumber tree, umbrella magnolia, and cowcumber tree.

Bigleaf magnolia is a stunningly beautiful tree, rarely grown in American gardens. It is under pressure or endangered in North Carolina, Ohio, and Arkansas. If you have the habitat and inclination, you can plant one of America's most beautiful and unusual trees while perhaps helping protect the species.

Continue reading ‘Magnolia macrophylla – Bigleaf Magnolia’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Hymenocallis traubii (Traub's spider lily) is native to Florida and prefers consistently moist soil. You can grow it in bog gardens or as a pond plant. Traub's spider lily is also called Florida spider lily. It is a bulb.

Have a place where pitcher plant is at home? Plant some Traub's spider lily with it. I photographed Hymenocallis traubii in a garden with ordinary soil. The white flowers are pretty wild.

Traub's spider lily

Traub's spider lily - Hymenocallis traubii. Click for larger.

It's a bit of a specialist's plant geared for those who seek to populate their gardens with plants rarely seen. If you choose to grow Traub's spider lily in your own garden, try not to let the soil dry out.

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Clematis Romantika bears flowers that are so dark, so lush. It is the closest thing to a black flower I have seen. When the sun hits the blooms, the impossibly deep black-purple color is replaced with a beautiful, but more common, purple.

On an overcast day however Romantika is as dark and mysterious as flowers come.

Romantika clematis

Romantika clematis flower in overcast light. Click for larger.

The photograph directly above gives some idea of the character of Romantika's flower color. So much is dependent upon the light and time of day when the image is captured. The first time I saw Romantika was on a cloudy, overcast day. The flowers were so dark they looked black.

I was standing there fairly dumbstruck when the sun came blasting out from behind the clouds for a moment, rendering the Romantika medium purple.

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See also: Native Plants
Calycanthus floridus 'Athens' (syn. 'Katherine') is a yellow-flowered variant of our native sweetshrub. Named after the city of Athens, Georgia, Calycanthus floridus 'Athens' was introduced by well-respected UGA professor Michael Dirr, who originally named the plant for his daughter Katherine.

Common names include sweetshrub, Carolina allspice, and strawberry bush. It is a beautiful and understated shrub.calycanthus floridus katherine

Calycanthus floridus 'Athens' bears softly colored butter-yellow flowers on a shrub that grows to nine feet tall after many years in the garden. The color of the flowers is reminiscent of those on the native tree Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip poplar)...perhaps a little softer.

Calycanthus floridus 'Athens' is native and deciduous, with nice fall color (yellow).

I spend a lot of time examining the gigantic specimen over at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and the flowers are so light that from a distance of over ten feet they blend into the medium-light green foliage. Carolina allspice 'Athens' is best viewed at a relatively close distance in order to appreciate the beautiful and unusual flowers.

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See also: Herbaceous Perennials
I included Bletilla striata (hardy orchid, Chinese ground orchid) in Landscape of Us for those who might enjoy growing an orchid in their gardens. Bletilla striata is a bona fide orchid, a dues-paying member of the Orchidaceae family. Bletilla striata is generally recognized as being one of the first orchids grown in cultivation in England.

Bletilla striata is native to China, Japan, and Tibet.

Bletilla striata - Chinese ground orchid

Bletilla striata is an orchid that can be grown in the garden. Click for larger.

Admittedly, the photographs here make Bletilla striata's flowers look huge. They are not huge, maybe 1"-1 1/2". They do look like small Cattelya orchid flowers. The color of the hardy orchid's flowers is spectacular, ranging from lavender to pink to vivid purple depending on the light. Hardy orchid blooms in April and May, and the photographs included here have caught Bletilla striata nearing the end of this season's flowering.

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See also: Native Plants, Garden Roses
Rosa palustris (swamp rose) is a species rose native to the eastern United States. This means something considering 99% of the roses grown in American gardens are from somewhere else. It's called swamp rose for a reason, as Rosa palustris likes boggy, wet areas.

Rosa palustris - native rose

Rosa palustris - swamp rose. Click for larger.

Rosa palustris has clear pink semi-double flowers that bloom in May-June in the Piedmont. In cooler areas, flowering is for a roughly six week period from June into July. Most guides recommend that swamp rose can grow to 6' tall. I have seen old plants get to 7'-8' in the garden. Foliage, like most of the species roses, is relentlessly healthy.

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