December 2017 Newsletter
Thank you friends for your support!
Peckerwood Garden is funded entirely by donation. We appreciate the support of our members, guests, donors, and friends. If you want to know more about projects at the garden, events happening, and how you can get involved please contact us.
Adam’s Notes from the Garden
The east Texas native beech ( Fagus grandifolia) displaying striking fall color
Recent visitors have seen the garden in a new light, dominated by shades of gold, copper and rusty red. These are the combined effects of light filtering through a canopy of reasonably good fall color on our various deciduous trees. Whether on the trees or later carpeting the ground, the reddish orange bald cypresses foliage creates a stunning effect where the Creekside plantings appear to be viewed through amber tinted sunglasses. The silvery blues and greys of various Agave, Yucca and Nolina species seem to really pop against this backdrop, with evergreens further balancing the display. Also along the creek, our native beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) had stunning coloration of flaming orange, while neighboring Chinese tulip trees (Liriodendron chinense) and native basswood ( Tilia caroliniana ) flaunted nice clean yellow tones.
Due to the wet late summer with Hurricane Harvey, some of our maple leaves were quite blemished with pathogens that cause spotting on the leaves. Viewed from afar, the color on most maples was spectacular, but up close, the imperfections become more apparent. Our Taiwan maple Acer oliverianum ssp. formosanum was the most affected, and would probably have had less leaf imperfections if it weathered Harvey out in the open where the leaves could dry quicker, rather than in the sheltered, humid position of the hallway along the creek. Still, the Taiwan maple from a distance was a pleasing orange, and interestingly the form of this species from china, Acer oliverianum ssp. oliverianum , had the best, reasonably clean color it’s had in my time here, and it is right on the creek bank and in more shade. 
Above: The contorted, weeping branches of Ulmus alata 'Lace Parasol' show up well contrasted against the orange fall foliage of Mexican sugar maple.
Above: John's Mexican collection of bigtooth maple ( Acer grandidentatum) lighting up the edge of the woodland garden
John Fairey’s Mexican collections of bigtooth maple, Acer grandidentatum , and Mexican sugar maple, Acer saccharum ssp. skutchii, both colored up well with minimal leaf spot issues. Other stars in the fall color arena are the Taiwan sweetgum, Liquidambar formosana, which held its flaming coloration longer than any of the other trees. Our two Sinojackia species, S. rehderiana and S. xylocarpa, also contributed a pale but clean yellow that provides a nice contrast to highlight their arching branches. Lindera species including L. angustifolia and L. glauca also were a nice yellow and orange respectively before shifting to copper color on the leaves that will be retained on the trees through most of the winter.
Before the fall color ensued, we also received the snow that surprised everyone in the region. Though we didn’t get as much as some in the immediate surroundings, it was still enough to turn Peckerwood into a temporary winter wonderland. Nothing is more photogenic than palms and agaves bearing accumulations of snow on their leaves. 
The brief winter wonderland following a rare snowfall.
Mahonia x media 'Buckland' is among the early winter flowering plants adding to the seasonal spectacle
The weather hasn’t put a damper on our winter flowering plants. The succession of flowering among our Mahonia species has begun, starting with the Mexican Mahonia chochoca along with several of the hybrid Mahonia x media cultivars. Camellias continue to flower throughout the woodland garden, along with lesser known shrubs like Chimonanthus nitidus which has white translucent flowers that line the undersides of the arching stems, each looking like a tiny octopus. I could go on and on, but perhaps you could come visit during one of our upcoming Open Days or Insider’s Tours and see for yourself. 
Visit and support Peckerwood Garden this winter!
North Dry Garden
Peckerwood Insiders Tour
Saturday, January 6, 10 am

Join us at 10 am for 1 tour of the North Dry Garden and adjacent plantings. For those guests that have experienced this section of the garden, you know what a special treat this is. Visit the collections surrounding the Iconic Blue wall honoring Frida Kahlo.

Evening at Peckerwood Lecture
January 20th, 5pm Wine and refreshments

Break away from the notion that conifers won't grow here! Beyond our natives, there are a multitude of beautiful, distinctive conifers from around the world that are perfectly happy in heat and humidity. With a little searching for the proper selections and understanding of their needs, you really can grow certain species of yews, firs and spruces here. There are many, many exceptionally attractive conifers out there suited to our region that you may have never heard of from, including Calocedrus , Keteleeria , Fokienia , Amentotaxus and Thujopsis . Many highly ornamental species of Podocarpus , Junipers , and pines exist beyond the familiar ones. There are also a variety of less-common selections of ubiquitous things like bald cypress worth seeking out. Numerous other species offer potential for this region, and this presentation will give a sneak peek into the options we will be trialing at Peckerwood, as well as those already succeeding. 

Pre-registration is required for the tour at 3:30.
The brief winter wonderland following a rare snowfall..
Mahonia chochoca flowers are drawing butterflies on the warmer days
January Open Day
Saturday, January 27 starting at 10:00 am

Join us each 4th Saturday for Open Day and tour Peckerwood Garden with a trained, volunteer docent. Our Oak collection is one most people know, but you can also experience our Magnolia collection, the Mahonias , the Prunus , the Camellias , the Azaleas , and the Agavas . Members have free entry to all Open Days, year round.
Peckerwood Insiders Tour
Saturday, February 3, 10 am

Join us to experience some of the most interesting times in the garden.

This month we will continue to highlight the succession of winter interest. Just barely starting last month, we should have a good representative of Magnolias flowering, along with later-flowering cultivars of flowering apricot, Camellias, Mahonia species, and other plants that weren’t flowering last month. Woodland perennials like Trilliums should be emerged and possibly flowering. Many of the winter-fruiting plants like the hollies should still be holding their berries, and we will find many more distinctive features at their best this time of year.
Snow on palms and agaves is always an interesting sight
Evening at Peckerwood Lecture
February 17, 5pm Wine and refreshments

Evening lecture topic TBA
Fallen bald cypress needles create a surreal amber cast to the landscape
Chimonanthus nitens flowers
February Open Day
Saturday, February 24 starting at 10:00 am

Join us each 4th Saturday for Open Day and tour Peckerwood Garden with a trained, volunteer docent. Our Oak collection is one most people know, but you can also experience our Magnolia collection, the Mahonias , the Prunus , the Camellias , the Azaleas , and the Agavas . Members have free entry to all Open Days, year round.
Plant of the month: Flowering Apricot (Prunus mume)
Prunus mume 'Josephine' bending well with woody lilies at the edge of the south dry garden
One of the stars among Peckerwood’s many winter-interest plants is Prunus mume, also known as the flowering apricot. For quite some time, as evidenced by some large trees on the property, John Fairey has been amassing various cultivars for trial here in Texas. Though originally native to southern China, it has been popular as an ornamental cultivated throughout Asia for a few thousand years, especially in Japan, where many selections have been perpetuated. Flowers range from white to deep red, with all shades of pink in between from pale to deep rose. Beyond color selections, there are forms with double flowers, large flowers as well as those with weeping and contorted branches. Like many plums, apricots and cherries in the genus Prunus, these deciduous trees flower profusely in winter before they leaf out. At Peckerwood, it seems that flowering time varies depending on the cultivar, and careful selection of specimens can result in a succession of flowering through winter and early spring. Though best known for their flowers, the trees also have wonderful bark and even produce reasonable fall color, especially striking with a backdrop of other evergreen plants. These ornamental selections produce inferior fruit to those intentionally selected or bred for palatability.
Camellia Forest Nursery in Chapel Hill, N.C. has been the primary source for these plants in the U.S. introducing many cultivars from Asia along with their own selections. Some nurseries graft the cultivars on other species of Prunus, some of which might not be as adaptable in our region, so it is best to investigate this with your source. Camellia Forest offers plants grown from rooted cuttings, which is the best option.
Prunus mume 'Contorta' is interesting even when defoliated
The winter flowers of Prunus mume show up most strikingly when grown among evergreen neighbors.
As we saw this past winter, one drawback in our gulf coast climate is that we don’t always receive the required amount of chilling this plant needs every winter. I’ve only witnessed the 2016 and 2017 flowering, and both years were quite floriferous. However, earlier this year, with our minimal cumulative chilling hours last winter, we saw erratic behavior when leafing out following flowering. Some cultivars leafed out fully, others sparsely, with some almost devoid of foliage all year. Though the trees are still alive, I doubt they will flower at all this winter, and it will be interesting to see if they have enough stored energy to leaf out this spring. It also will be of interest to see how those that did leaf out will flower this winter. This will be valuable data to continue to monitor in upcoming years in finding cultivars to recommend as reliable performers in our region.
So how much chilling do flowering apricots need on average? First we have to note that there are different methods of measuring chill requirements over a particular region’s winter, including chill hours, chill units and chill portions, all of which take into account several variables. In a study “Evaluation of Chilling and Heat Requirements in Japanese Apricot with Three Models” by Zhihong Gao, Weibing Zhuang, et al., they determined that the “dynamic model” which is displayed as chill portions (calculated differently from chill hours) was the most accurate way of determining chill requirements for this species. Their research showed the optimum required units for flowering apricot ranging from 26.3 to 75.7 chill portions depending on the clone. As a frame of reference, the chill portions for us here in Hempstead the past three years were 53, 36 and most recently, 22. We are currently at 15 chill portions here in late December, so hopefully in the remaining winter months we can double that and be back on schedule. 
Though often not considered for its fall color, Prunus mume can indeed put on a show
Alpine-style Warm Climate Rock Garden update
It has been almost a year since our trial rock garden was installed, based on the style of gardening often employed in colder regions utilizing alpine or dwarf plants that tend to look attractive growing among rocks. We trialed a number of warm-climate analogs that grow in similar clumps, cushions or otherwise are small-statured and would be lost in a typical garden bed. Based on previous trials in Florida and among other gardens in the southeastern U.S., some of these plants will only flourish through warm, wet summers in the sharply drained conditions of a rockery. Gravel mulch is not just for aesthetics as it often makes all the difference with certain things that otherwise prefer a Mediterranean, summer-dry climate. However, the type of gravel used makes a tremendous difference. Expanded shale is far superior to the pea gravel commonly used in our area, as the former tends to reflect heat up into the dense mounds of foliage and helps bake them dry quickly when the sun comes back out following rainfall. Though local perception of rock gardens translates to xeric-growing agaves, cacti and succulents, the method employed here is not necessarily fully xeric, needing some supplemental water during dry spells. The key is for the foliage to dry quickly and to have excess water drain away freely from the roots. 
The rock garden, looking east
A Globularia sp. in the foreground with Asphodeline lutea in the rear. A small Eriogonum from New Mexico lies in between.
As far as failures, some were surprising and some were not. We did trial some interesting things donated by other gardens and collectors that originated from higher, cooler elevations that I was skeptical would survive our hot summers, and in most cases they didn’t. Other things I feel do stand a chance here based on their natural tolerance to heat and cold may have perished due to other reasons. These will be trialed again if the opportunity arises.
I had previously noted how amazed I was with a selection of fringed bleeding heart, Dicentra eximia ‘Dolly Sods’ that comes from the shale barrens of West Virginia. In near-full sun it held luxurious lacy blue-green foliage and was blooming non-stop from spring though at least early August, at which point it abruptly died back. Poking around underground, it appears to have died outright rather than simply going dormant. Having lasted so long into the summer, I don’t think this was simply a heat-related issue, so this will be one we definitely will try again. It is available from Plant Delights Nursery if anyone wants to try his or her luck with likely the only bleeding heart that may survive in our region.
An interesting Scutellaria sp. from Dan Hosage
Dicentra eximia 'Dolly Sods' performed amazingly until mid August, worth another try
Though it hasn’t flowered yet, Achillea sibirica var. camtschatica has been quite a surprise. The species and varietal name clearly convey its frigid origins of the Kamchatka Peninsula of eastern Siberia, the same latitude as Alaska. Even if it never flowers, the foliage is quite attractive, in no way resembling the more commonly known yarrow, Achillea millifolium. Another surprise from temperate Europe that hasn’t flinched over the summer is the pasque flower Pulsatilla vulgaris ssp. bogenhardiana. It will be even more exciting if it actually flowers this spring. I do have this one situated on the north side of a rock where it surely stays slightly less scorching hot than it would experience in direct sun.
Surprising not for its tolerance to our region but instead due to its foliar beauty is Hypericum geminiflorum var . simplicistylum , a Taiwanese St. Johnswort donated by its collector, Mark Weathington of the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C. The oval leaves emerge red, transitioning to purple and then to dusty blue, all bundled in a neat, compact clump. With the foothold it’s gotten over the last half of the year, it will surely embellish its beauty next year with showy yellow flowers typical of the genus. Another St. Johnswort from the U.S. Hypericum galioides ‘Creel’s Gold Star’ has not surprisingly performed well, and flowered nicely over the summer. There is a whole world of interesting Hypericum species waiting to be better utilized for their ornamental potential, many of which fit in perfectly to a rock garden.
The colorful foliage of the Taiwanese Hypericum geminiflorum
Dwarf Pinus clausa with Teucrium gnaphalodes on the right
Other dwarf woody plants include my miniature compact selection of the Florida Sand Pine ( Pinusclausa ), grown from seed collected from a witch’s broom. Under a south Texas wild collection of Leucophyllum frutescens grows the interesting prostrate mat of Dalea capitata ‘Sierra Gold’, a Mountain States Nursery introduction that forms a soft-textured groundcover with gold flowers in late summer, looking especially attractive flowing between and spilling over strategically positioned rocks.
Several bulbs are doing well in the rock garden. From Argentina, Nothoscordum sellowianum is a favorite, forming a dense patch of short thin leaves that more resembles a clump of dark green moss. When it flowers, the green is almost completely obscured by a mass of dark yellow flowers resembling miniature crocuses. I’m hoping to soon see the re-emergence of two species of trout lilies, my Florida collection of Erythronium umbilicatum and my east Texas collection of E. rostratum. These woodland dwellers are situated in the shaded north side of a tall rock where I think they will be showcased best. 
Teucrium polium flanked by a Phlox selection rescued from the $1 clearance rack at Lowes, and Viola corsica
Scutellaria indica  is a true miniature
Among some interesting Mediterranean plants doing well include several germander species, most showy being two ashy white fuzzy species, Teucrium polium and T. gnaphalodes, both donated by Denver Botanic Garden. I’m excited that two species of Globularia (aka Globe Daisys) have established well and are starting to form mats of rosettes composed of delicate spoon-shaped leaves. It will be nice if they produce their vivid blue flowers next year. Dwarf Cranesbill ( Erodium x variable ‘ Bishop’s Form’) developed a very neat, tidy mound and produced its delicate pink flowers, making me want to track down the two parent species of this hybrid.
Losses among Mediterranean plants include several Veronica species, and most disappointing were Draba hispanica, and Putoria calabrica, two that I was enamored with in Denver Botanic Garden’s collections and optimistic they would survive based on their natural conditions. I am not giving up on these yet! 
Tremendous diversity in a small footprint
Various xeric ferns, including the Cheilanthes sp ., are establishing well.
Plenty of U.S. native plants have requirements and appearances that lend themselves well to this style of rock garden. Among those from the southeast doing well are Viola pedata (Birdsfoot Violet) along with various species of Phlox, Penstemon and Silene. The dwarf shining blueberry Vaccinium myrsinites produced a few fruit. Among the things from West Texas through the southwestern US we are growing a few species of flowering buckwheat ( Eriogonum ) as well as an increasing array of Cheilanthes, Pellaea and related desert ferns.

This is just scratching the surface of the interesting plants we are trialing in these growing conditions, and there are many additional options I am eager to try. I hope this style of gardening will encourage others in the area to experiment with rockeries for the aesthetic enjoyment and diversification of our region’s plant palette.