Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Compatibility Conundrum

It all began simple enough: my freeze damaged loropetalums needed to be replaced and I was out of ideas. I needed a shrub that could survive a seasonal wind tunnel in the winter and reflected heat in the summer. Tired of online searches with contradictory information, I headed back to the one source I knew I could count on - the Shrubmaster.

But unlike previous visits, I found myself immune to the tender advances of his leafy minions. "How about this shrub?" he asked. "Nope", I replied again and again. I just didn't like them. Too big, too short, too thirsty, too purple, too boring. "I'm going to be picky about this one", I finally offered. He stopped, stroked his beard, and didn't disagree.



Frustrated, I brainstormed other ideas before settling on a plan. But a plan hatched with one smart friend was shot down by another. Ideas popped into my Inbox all week before it finally occurred to me I was speed dating the shrub section.


The real problem wasn't with the shrubs suggested by the Shrubmaster or my other friends but with me. I wasn't interested in the boring predictability of an evergreen and was frustrated by falling for the seductive charms of flashy foliage and lush blooms. I was looking for substance over style and had a long list of requirements: strength in the face of adversity, adaptability and a willingness to thrive during a drought, an interesting personality, and good bone structure.



After rejecting shrub after shrub, I finally went with my gut and settled on the one I should have planted ten years ago: fothergilla 'Mt Airy'. Having already proven its merits in my garden in South Carolina, I knew 'Mt Airy' was a keeper. A tough native shrub with incredible fall foliage and fragrant spring flowers, it requires less water than 'Pinky Winky' hydrangea and has a name I can say without laughing or feeling nauseous.


Fothergilla 'Mt Airy' in the spring


Fall foliage

70 comments:

  1. What a great choice! I often forget about Fothergilla. Great fall color.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a feeling all along it was the problem solver I was looking for but it seemed too subtle for what I was looking for. The answer was right under my nose the whole time.

      Delete
  2. Pinky winky yes. I rejected a fragrant rose, called, Smell Me.
    And what's that one called? !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A rose called Smell Me? That company needs more creativity! The lack of effort reflected by the name might also be reflected in the breeding. I would have passed on that one, too.

      Delete
  3. Sounds like an excellent choice. You are right to go with your gut. I don't have any Fothergilla, it's on my list of native shrubs I would like to plant if I ever get the chance

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm excited to add it to the garden. I like the way it changes through the seasons.

      Delete
  4. It sounds like a good choice. You couldn't possibly grow 'Pinky Winky'.
    You have the opposite problem to me, I have so many shrubs I really want/need to grow and increasingly lack of space to grow them.
    Does Fothergilla need an acid soil?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, I don't have any room left for shrubs at all. I am completely shrubbed out. I only have room for the fothergilla because I'm taking the loropetalum's out. Fothergilla is a southeastern native that likes acidic soil. Because mine will be planted near the foundation of my house which leaches lime into the soil raising the pH, I'll add soil acidifier to keep the pH down.

      Delete
  5. Very amused by that ! The idea of speed dating shrubs is one which I am struggling to get out of my head! Also... 'Pinky Winky' ? I don't think so. Names can be a deal breaker ! Personally, I struggled to buy a lovely white DA rose named after the Royal wedding 'William and Kate'. Although not entirely anti-Royal, buying the rose seemed a bit like waving Union Jacks and having a street party to celebrate !! I only wanted it because it ws a good clear white !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The speed dating thought popped up when I realized my friends had become botanical matchmakers. I wasn't looking for a fling but a long term shrub relationship. I ended up choosing the shrub that reminds me of my husband: handsome, adaptable, and interesting. I understand your hesitation with the white rose. I make sure none of my garden beds are red, white, and blue. It just feels too obvious.

      Delete
  6. Love it! Where do you get your pictures from?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! All the pics of plants come from my garden, unless it's a plant I've just added. All the others come from Google Images. Sometimes finding a really funny picture will change the direction of the post. The quote about clowns I ran through Picture Monkey because the original image was black and grey and looked like it had come out a cheesy low budget horror movie.

      Delete
  7. It was laughing again, you are such a creative writer and the pictures...... The Fothergilla 'Mt Airy' is a wonderful shrub with almost all year round beauty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find evergreens boring unless their foliage changes with the seasons or they offer berries or flowers. I have a low hedge of Japanese hollies that I enjoy because they're reliable and refuse to die. Most people here plant evergreens in their front gardens so there's something to look at in the winter but adding deciduous shrubs to the landscape doesn't bother me. I just try to pick shrubs that look good naked. ;o)

      Delete
  8. Good choice and I think a lovely shrub. I just planted one this past Fall. Being so new here I am hoping it did ok during this awful Winter of below normal temperatures, or should I say what normal use to be here and we probably should never have changed our zones. Fortunately most everything I have is good to at least zone 5, but a couple that aren't.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I had a spot for the 'Pinky Winky', too, despite its silly name. But it just needs too much water. When we have summer droughts, I don't want to have to hook my shrubs up to an aquatic IV just to survive. Your fothergilla should come through winter just fine. They're tough shrubs. :o)

      Delete
  9. What a lovely looking shrub, and not one I am familiar with so thank you, something new to look up! I hope you and your fothergilla are very happy together for a long, long time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's native to the southeastern region of the US but might grow well for you, too. It has beautiful glaucous summer foliage.

      Delete
  10. the only problem reading your highly entertaining blog, Tammy, is the risk of bruising when I fall about laughing! Congrats on finding your chosen one (fg)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Life is so bizarre and humans are such weird creatures that I have to find humor in most things just to understand them. The agonizing I did over this shrub decision couldn't be told with a straight face. I kept giving all the shrubs personalities, which just made everything funnier.

      Delete
  11. They are gorgeous plants in any photo I have seen. My own fothergilla is a rabbit magnet. Not so photogenic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ARGH!! I hope they don't become bunny magnets! I may have to put some type of mesh around their bases. I had so much rabbit damage last year.

      Delete
  12. Ahhh, the ol' fothergilla caper. Congratulations, Tammy. You have found the magic key to happiness. For now. Soon you will need another key. And another.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The love of my family, my garden, and a career I enjoy are the keys. Cool shrubs are just a bonus. :o)

      Delete
  13. Great choice. I love my Fothergilla. It's one of the few shrubs I've planted that has lived up to its promises. And it's still standing, despite the animal onslaught this winter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What type of animal onslaught? I'm glad fothergilla is working for you. I need a shrub I can depend on. I'm tired of the ones that whine and cry when life gets rough.

      Delete
  14. That's one I've been meaning to plant for years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would look amazing with your natural garden! I'm sure you have a spot to squeeze one in!

      Delete
  15. Fothergilla looks a lovely shrub with something to interest at different times of the year. The red foliage is beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm really excited to bring it back to my garden. It will be like reuniting with an old friend.

      Delete
  16. Yes! I kept reading with bated breath, sure that you would reveal your decision, and . . . when you said fothergilla I rejoiced. I have both the species gardenii and the Mt. Airy cultivar and have had great results with both. A beautiful choice for your troubled spot. Monty Python will congratulate you on your shrubbery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought of you when I told the Shrubmaster that was the shrub I wanted. :o) I was hoping you weren't too far into blog retirement to read this post. I can hardly wait to add them to the garden!

      Delete
  17. I don't know this plant, but he sure looks handsome! I'm swooning over his fall foliage! ;) I hope he does well in that particular spot. So nice to find a solid-as-a-rock hunk-of-love to go in your garden!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Solid" is exactly what I was looking for. No divas here, just a wonderful ensemble cast. :o)

      Delete
  18. What a SMASHIN' choice!!! I have my fingers and toes crossed that it grows beautifully and ticks all your boxes! I must say, I'm always smiling reading your posts....and I loved that grey cat with the funny hat!!!xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The grey cat is a take off of from the Monty Python movie The Holy Grail, which is one of the funniest movies ever. I think the fothergilla will be a keeper. :o)

      Delete
  19. Wow, that is one fabulous choice, now I'm wondering if it would work in my zone 7/8 (depending on the "global weirding" phenomenon we are having at the moment...) I think you owe it all to the cat though. Yoda Cat, for sure. It reminds me of when I was growing up and my parents used to throw GroundHog Parties in February. They would put paper bags on their heads, with paper groundhog teeth and elect a "Grand Groundhog" for the evening's ceremonies. Oh, did I mention they wore their pajamas (matching of course) to this shindig? It's no wonder I'm sane at all. Seriously though, a great choice Tammy and I'm going to look into that shrub for myself--the fall foliage is exquisite.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your parents and I would have gotten along very well. When I was trying to decide on a shrub for this spot, I kept imagining a large opera singer in a flowing dress and Viking helmet. Idiotic, I know, but it explains whey I was so drawn to large, rounded flowing shrubs. But after a few days I realized I didn't want an attention hogging, water guzzling diva in my garden but a ruggedly handsome, solidly built team player that would compliment the other shrubs without dominating them. I wanted a Mike Rowe (from Dirty Jobs) type shrub instead of a smarmy, needy diva/pretty boy. :o)

      Delete
  20. Great choice, a native and gorgeous in all seasons...

    ReplyDelete
  21. What a good choice, lovely autumn colour too. I agree that ‘Pinky Winky’ is a silly name, I almost didn’t buy it, but I could not resist the flowers that changed colour and had a perfect spot for it so I bought it last year. It is really lovely, worth finding a spot for!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I had a spot for it, I would buy it, regardless of its name. But my garden is full, unfortunately.

      Delete
  22. You're right - plant selection can be like looking for the perfect mate! Based on your pictures, the Fothergilla looks like a plant that can go the distance and look good doing it! I checked the specs and, sadly, it's not a plant match for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fothergilla isn't a CA kind of guy. :( I think it's the problem solver I've been looking for. :o)

      Delete
  23. I like your final decision of the Fothergilla....but then again I love anything with white flowers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The flowers are fragrant, which I love. :o)

      Delete
  24. Love your choice. I probably don't give my own Fothergilla (F. gardenii) enough respect, but it's a beautiful and (so far) trouble-free choice that looks good in all seasons -- even naked!!

    I think you've made a great decision!!

    PS - Totally agree with the others that the photos you pick are priceless and add a wonderful levity to your posts! And of course your garden pics are *gorgeous*.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fothergilla does look good naked! I consider that a noteworthy quality. ;o) I try to keep my blog very real and light hearted. Gardening doesn't have to be serious. :o)

      Delete
  25. Speed dating the shrub section...oh sigh. That's a zinger that is going to stick in my mind forever. I love Fothergilla...had a lovely one, the greyish green leaved version...sadly, we broke up when it died.

    Jen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Botanical breaks up can be rough. I had to break up with my beans last summer. They showed their true colors rather quickly and got the heave-ho. Do you have the right climate to try fothergilla again?

      Delete
  26. I think this one will work for me, seems to handle moisture and likes acidic soil plus I hear it grows well with rhodos which I have in a part shaded bed at the front door.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! Give it a try! I think you'll love it. There are several different cultivars in a variety of heights.

      Delete
  27. Oh yeah, I think you made a good choice! Speed dating the shrub section is dangerous. Love the Monty Python reference--I need to break out the DVD collection again one of these days...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Monty Python rules! Those shrubs can be quite charming and I've fallen for their dashing good looks before. I had to be pickier this time in order not to stray off course and develop a crush. ;o)

      Delete
  28. I have never heard of this - I wonder if it available over here - love the colour of the autumn foliage. Good choice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure if it would grow in England or not. It's native to the southeastern portion of the US. I hope you can find it!

      Delete
  29. I'm so glad you finally settled down with a nice, stalwart, steady guy. After dating all those bad boys and flashy cads who would love you and leave you, we were all a little worried. Now you've found someone just like your dear old dad. Fother knows best and all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A friend of mine calls this Father Gorilla. :o) I'm tired of weak kneed shrubs that don't have the spine to hang tough when the going gets rough. I think Father Gorilla did know best, after all.

      Delete
  30. I love the comment of outlawgardener :-). So, how is your new beau doing :-P? Will he be able to adapt in NJ weather as well? I should check him out though I really do not have space to put a shrub in my garden. But, still wrote his name in my garden journal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't planted him yet. :o) It's way too early. I'll have to wait til spring. Right now I have a foot of snow on the ground.

      Delete
  31. That's a nice choice you made, boring certainly not. I don't think they grow here, but I enjoy seeing unfamiliar plants

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fothergilla is a southeastern native so I don't think it would do well for you. :(

      Delete
  32. Great choice! Unfortunately, my fothergilla hasn't been very happy here, but I'm not ready to dump him yet, though I'm not sure we're really compatible. Your posts always give me a chuckle:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Maybe he just needs a different spot. Even big tough guys need some love. :o)

      Delete
  33. It is good that no one else is home see me sitting by myself and laughing like a crazy person at the computer screen. " I was speed dating the shrub section." That is too funny! Coincidentally I was doing some online retail therapy this afternoon and spent quite a few minutes calculating wether I could find a fothergilla locally at a nursery or whether I needed to order one online. No idea where I would put it, but I have wanted one for a while. I am sure I can find a spot for one somewhere! LOL Love that fall color!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I felt like my friends had become botanical matchmakers. I admired a 'Steed' holly for a few minutes but figured he was way too country club for me. I kept giving all the shrubs personalities, which I know is ridiculous, but it went along with the idea that I was speed dating. I think fothergilla would be amazing in your garden! There are several small cultivars that might be easier to fit in.

      Delete
  34. Hi Tammy, sounds like all is good at the end :-)! You settled on a beautiful shrub that obviously has many good qualities. I feel, sometimes we simply need to wait until a decision is ripe to be made. Hope you post photos of the shrub being planted in your garden and let us know, how it is doing! Wishing you a nice weekend!
    Christina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When Stumpy the freeze damaged loropetalum comes out and the fothergilla goes in, there will definitely be a post! I can hardly wait to see how it all looks. :o)

      Delete

Thanks for visiting my blog! Feel free to comment on the posts or photos.