Brooklyn Botanic Garden Signature Plants

Today I received my 2007 Catalog of Signature Plants from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This is one of the benefits of BBG membership I anticipate every year and serves as one of the markers on the gardening calendar. (Another such event is the annual plant sale the first week of May, a feeding frenzy of plant lust I hope to blog about this year.) It always arrives in mid-Winter; we finally had Winter this season, with mid-day temperatures in the teens the past two days. The catalog's arrival reminds me that Spring is coming fast and I'd better start planning my garden renovations and acquisitions for the year.

Members contributing at the Signature level or above can select one or two plants from the catalog. Plants are grouped as Houseplants (tropicals hardy only to USDA Hardiness Zone 9 or higher), Perennials, and Trees and Shrubs. The listings describe 30 plants in just under four pages, with detailed information about the variety, cultural requirements, size, habit, and so on.

They also identify native plant species and cultivars. This year, they include:

  • Cornus sericea 'Cardinal'
  • Fothergilla major 'Blue Shadow'
  • Heuchera americana 'Green Spice'
  • Itea virginica 'Little Henry'
  • Kalmia latifolia 'Ostbo Red'
  • Monarda fistulosa
Two years ago, they also offered local genotypes of species native to New York City, propagated in collaboration with the Staten Island Greenbelt. This is something I wish they would do every year. There are no commercial sources of locally-propagated plants available to the residential gardener.

Most years, I wait until late in the season to place my order, and never get my first choices. You, gentle readers, by your very presence, spurred me to email my first choices today. Here they are, with their catalog descriptions:
Rosa x odorata
China rose, butterfly rose (cultivar)
Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-9
Full Sun, Average soil; 3-6 feet tall

This antique shrub rose from China is celebrated for the chameleon-like color changes of its flowers (the "mutability" referenced in the cultivar name). Its cupped, single, slightly fragrant butterfly-shaped blossoms open a honey-yellow color, then turn coppery pink, then watermelon, then finally a rich mahogany. The floral display begins in May and repeats throughout the summer into fall. Orange hips form when the spent flowers are not deadheaded.
From the information I can find, this variety was introduced to the West from China "before 1894", so it's likely much older. It fits the criterion of being an antique/heirloom variety for the front garden. The size is right for this space; it will be easy to keep it low enough that it doesn't detract from the brickwork, or block the view from the windows. Planting it at the south end of the planting area will give it nearly full sun during the summer. The early bloom is another bonus; I'm hoping to get the front garden, at least, on the Victorian Flatbush House & Garden Tour next year; it occurs June of each year.
Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit'
Smoke tree (cultivar)
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-8
Full Sun to Partial Shade, Average soil, 8-15 feet tall

This smoke tree cultivar is grown for its unusual bright chartreuse-yellow foliage. The small, circular leaves retain their golden color until fall, when they develop magnificent tones of amber, burgundy, and scarlet. Smokelike grayish-green flower panicles appear in summer, typical of the species. An upright, loose-spreading, multistemmed deciduous shrub, 'Golden Spirit' works well as a single specimen or in mixed plantings. Grow it in average, well-drained soil in full sun.
I have this in mind for the south side of the house, along the driveway; you can see much of this garden in the Winter 2006 photo in The Front Garden Evolving. A large, deciduous shrub in this location will partially shade the south side of the house and provide privacy during the summer, when windows are open, and allow light in the windows during the winter.

1 comment:

Annie in Austin said...

Many people down here grow 'Mutablilis' rose and they are spectacular. Cool choice, Xris!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose