The Bird Geek

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The first person I introduced at the flower show seminars last week was Michael Corcoran speaking on “Native Birds for our Native Plants.”  As I greeted him in the hallway, I immediately liked his warm character and ease.  He pointed out the convention center windows indicating there were birds to note across the view on a tall city building.  My mind was more on my show responsibilities, so I’ve already forgotten which bird he was speaking of! 

I told him that my husband has a triple decker bird feeder at our home and my friends are always commenting about the many birds we have on it.  Often they react with surprise at the variety, but I’m kind of use to seeing the many different birds.  Then I continued with letting Michael know I’ve seen a pair of pileated woodpeckers at my home in the woods several times.   I can even recognize their bird call now and imitate it which my brother finds comical.  But that is about the extent of my bird knowledge.  I was actually fishing for something interesting to share with Michael as we awaited the start his seminar. All the while, he listened and pleasantly responded with facts about the bird world.

Michael’s background includes being a volunteer with the CT Audubon Society since 1994 and being an active advocate for bird conservation.  He refers to himself as the “Birdgeek” and his email id reflects him as such.  He is also a serious cooperator through UCONN promoting sound forest stewardship practices and has a strong focus on natural resources. 

As Michael projected photos of native birds found in CT areas during his seminar, I was shocked to learn that I did not know of any displayed on the screen except the grosbeak!  Grosbeaks visit our feeder at home once in a while.  I just love their dark black on white with the rosey red coloring below their large beak.  There were many different species discussed by Micheal as he explained where they exist during certain migratory periods in our own woods, various forests and parks in CT.  Here I thought with my husband’s triple deck bird feeder setup on a chain pulley system loaded with so many different types of birds, we were a home with a good mix of birds.  I mean, my husband stocks his feeders so well with suet and grey stripe sunflower seed, we could have put a kid through college with the amount he has spent! 

Winter shot of Steve's birdfeeder

It was apparent the audience was filled with avid bird lovers.  They seemed to have a common look.  Their smiles were amidst the darkness of the seminar room as beautiful photos of birds were shown by Michael.  Soon following the bird review, Michael covered invasive plant species and how they harm bird feeding routines.  He instructed the group on how to find and identify certain invasives while offering alternatives, like Viburnums among others. 

Michael lives in South Glastonbury and showed photos of the trees and shrubs he has planted in his own yard and how these helped his bird populations.  I thought how wonderful it would be to line up a tour on his property where we can walk and talk more about the bird geek’s world.  (Note to self!)

For me personally, this seminar kicked off my experience at the flower show by offering a non-bird geek a new perspective.  However, I did not take notes as I would have liked, and had to run off shortly after his presentation to handle other duties.  Three days of show activity continued, and by yesterday, the last day of the show, I was feeling the tired feet and some exhaustion from all the excitement.  My generous husband, Steve, offered to pick me up from the show so I would not have to park in the parking garage. 

When we arrived home and stepped out of our car, I swear on the holy bird bible, there was the pileated woodpecker, a top a tree in my neighbor’s yard, chirping, or singing, whatever the technical term is for it.  I am NOT kidding.  We both paused.  I said to Steve, “I can’t believe this Steve!  This is a sign!”  Then I started to tell him about Michael’s presentation and how he has to meet him.  The pileated woodpecker flew right over our garage in the horizon.  It was distinctly recognizable, and now I also know, it is the largest woodpecker of North America.   

Michael Corcoran’s complete bio is located on the CT Garden & Flower Show website ( under the menu option titled seminars.  Cathy T

Thuja occidentalis ‘Little Giant’

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If you need a little evergreen shrub, be aware the traditional pyramidal shaped arborvitae also comes in a dwarf form.  It is Thuja occidentalis ‘Little Giant’ or dwarf arborvitae.  This mini-version of the evergreen arborvitae also takes full sun (6 hours or more of sun) and grows to 24-30″ tall x 30-36″ wide.   It can handle some part-shade too, but will have a more open habit.

When a guest visited my home last year, and saw one by my house in a tight corner, she pointed to it in surprise.  “Isn’t that going to get too large?”, she asked.  I informed her its the ‘mini-me’ of the arborvitae. 

Little Giant

It seems not to many people are aware ‘Little Giant’ exists.  It has a rounded habit and is not too expensive compared to plants of similar size with more desireable qualities, but I think this mini can do for small spaces.  Should you want to create a knot garden, this is an alternative to boxwood.  Just space the dwarf arborvitae about 36″ apart.  One caution:  Deer eat arborvitaes so if you have a problem with deer, don’t use this shrub where they may browse. The tidy size of this plant would also make a nice container garden specimen for some greenery in the design.  It is small enough to fit other plant combinations within the container.  And it is easy to prune. 

The typical American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) is more familiar to everyone.  It serves as a great evergreen hedge or privacy wall, or as an anchoring plant.  Basically, they are easy care.  Many retain their green color throughout the winter months, but I suspect many were damaged this year by our heavy snow fall in Connecticut – some beyond repair.  They may require replacing, unless you took the time to shake away the heavy weight of the snow. 

To prevent winter damage (in the future), twine string or cord around them as shown in this photo I took of arborvitaes in a grower’s field.  Or create a framework to protect the plant but be sure to allow the sun to cast upon it.  But it may be a little too late to let you know about these techniques now!  The damaging snow fall this year took us by surprise.  If your arborvitae was too severely damaged, and you want to take it down, you could also wait (if you can stand it) until next winter to do so because arborvitae evergreen cuttings are great fillers for winter container gardens, so why not get use of it when you create your holiday arrangements?  I will be showing how this is done next winter in my winter class offerings.


About the only other requirements for T. occidentalis species is protecting them from strong winter winds and, again, not placing them where deer are found to dine!  They prefer full sun but can take shade.  In shade, their foliage will be a little less tight and dense, and a bit airy looking. ‘Emerald’ is a good cultivar with a narrow to pyramidal habit as a shrub form or small tree.  It can reach up to 10-15′ high and 3-4′ wide.  It is hardy to zones 3-8.  This is one I often recommend, among other cultivars.  I’ve also used arborvitaes in large containers.  Two I have still today.  I planted them in containers about 3 seasons ago, and I move them into my garage each winter.  Then as soon as the warm temps of spring arrive, I roll them back out as repeat performers.  Begin watering slowing, add some fertilizer and refresh the soil and mulch.  I’ll change out the decor around the arborvitae with seasonal annuals to add a splash of color.  It is a great way to save money.  The arborvitae still hasn’t outgrown the pot! 

I recently read the Latin name arbor vitae means “Tree of Life”  in a book titled, “Leaves. In Myth, Magic & Medicine” by Alice Thoms Vitale.  ‘Tree of Life’ because it has been a source of food.  We know deer sure enjoy them.  Ever see an arborvitae turn into a topiary as they dine on the lower portions at times?  But apparently deer are not the only diners – moose and rabbits?  Well, rabbits use this evergreen for shelter.  No moose sightings here in my yard so I’d have to ask my Canadian relatives about that one!  Native Americans had used it also for skin disorders – making salve.  There were other medicinal purposes.  Who would have figured?  Cathy T

Mandevilla Mini-Crimson

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When you need a vertical element in a container or on a trellis in the garden, Mandevilla can quickly stand up to the challenge.  It is an easy care plant with either a bushy or vine-like habit depending on the species or cultivar selected. 

One variety I grew this past summer is called Mini-Crimson by Sun Parasol™ (Sunmanderemi).  It was in the bush category.  But I have also used the vine-like Mandevillas.  Tendrils reach out looking for places to twine upon, and mine twined around a tall Musa banana plant in the center of the container.   Sometimes the tendrils looked like they were reaching for the sun.  They have no eyes, but they sure can see! 

The flowers of  Mandevillas can grow to 2.5-3″ wide and are brilliant against the smooth, dark glossy green foliage of the plant.  And I liked how the red blooms picked up the coloring streaks of the Musa banana with it.  The ‘Mini’ series bloom one month earlier than other varieties (Crimson, Pink and White), so if you spot one early in the season – be sure to grab it!

The best aspect of Mandevillas, in my opinion, is their prolific flowering.  They bloom non-stop from spring/summer to fall providing you can offer them a part sun to full sun location where they will thrive!  I had another one that grew up a wrought iron trellis stand up to 9′ feet tall in one season!

It is important to be a ‘waterer’ type gardener because this plant does not care to dry out.  I was sure to place mine near my hose so I could easily reach it during our hot summer months of 2010 because my Mini-Crimson was in a large container garden situated on a big tree stump.  It was positioned just in the right spot so it could be seen from my nearby deck.  The warmed colored blooms were visible from afar.

In Pots on Stairs

Mandevillas can also serve as sprawling shrubs.  A tropical plant, they are hardy in zones 10-11 and die to the ground in warmer zones, behaving like perennials.  But unfortunately, for our CT zones, we  must move them inside to winter them over after cutting them back, or just use them as a house plant if it didn’t get too large for your house indoor space.

A couple of years back one of my nursery colleagues used Mandevillas in dark blue glazed pots and the red blooms growing above were extremely hot in this combination.  Both colors called your attention immediately.  It was a combination one could not easily forget. 

This is a great plant to use if you need a vine in a hurry and can’t wait for other plants to serve the purpose.  For example, one garden client wanted  a quick viner because they were going to showcase their gardens in a show.  They got one of these plants early in the year and we were happy with the results.  Sometimes waiting for a perennial vine to reach a high enough status is not soon enough.  So for a plant with a quick growth habit, showy appeal, and little disease problems, Mandevilla is a good choice.  And of course, I spotted a Mandevilla yesterday at the flower show in Hartford at a vendor’s booth.  It happened to be the Mini-Crimson.  Like I said, I’m psychic!  LOL….More fun today at the show when I return.  Taking my camera along so I can share the other plants I saw of interest.  Cathy T

CT Flower and Garden Show 2011

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Me last yr

I will be at the 30th Annual CT Flower & Garden Show today (Feb 24) serving as a volunteer for the CT Horticultural Society.  My role will be to introduce some of the seminar speakers, which by the way, seminars are held upstairs above the show floor on the ballroom level (and are included as part of the show’s entrance ticket).  Additionally, I will be at the CHS’s beautiful exhibit on Saturday, Feb 26th, from 3:00-5:30 pm, greeting show visitors!  And of course I plan to enjoy visiting the show’s other displays, flowers, and gardening items.

Last year, at this show, my Aunt Clarisse from Canada took this photo of me. Yes, Clarisse traveled here all the way from Quebec, Canada for the show.  She attended with my mother, who happens to also be her twin sister, Claire.  (They are both the eldest of 20 siblings.  Yup – 20!  But that is another story for another time.  No other twins in the family of the 20 if you are wondering.

A cool thing happened that day with my Aunt Clarisse.  Even though she doesn’t speak any English, and my French is extremely poor due to being out of practice, we both were able to clearly communicate about the plants at the flower show because of our familiarity with Latin plant names. 

Many people complain about the use of Latin names for plants because they are difficult to pronounce, but I was so impressed with my Aunt Clarisse as she said things like, “Ooooh, une Baptisia.  Voila, la Narcissus!  Ah, oui!  C’est tres belle – le Salvia! J’adore toute les fleurs ici!” 

Aunt Clarisse just loved the plants in the flower show’s displays.  And we enjoyed chatting plants or at least being able to name them by their Latin names without our usual language barrier frustrations.  In this case, Latin plant names saved the day!

We also understood that we enjoyed some plants in particular more than others.  Although she lives so far away, we knew alot of the same plants.  And, I loved the way she said “orchids” in french.  Sounded something like Or-Kid with a french accent!  But I knew right away what she was admiring.  In many cases, we were both speaking the same language about a specific plant, without confusion of the sometimes misused common names.    

I thought to myself, “Isn’t this the coolest? My Aunt is here – traveled all the way from Quebec — and we have something in common I didn’t expect, the love of flowers and plants with a Latin connection!”

About a month later, I received photos in the mail from my Aunt Clarisse of plants from the flower show and of her own gardens in Sherbrooke, Quebec.  She included a beautiful photo of her sitting on a bench in front of a field of lavender, or Lavandula!  On the back, she wrote:  Clarisse. Au Lovode Blueue. Fish Bay. Quebec. Fin Juillet.  Looks like it was taken in July.    I have had this photo pinned to my office wall all year.

Clarisse with Lavandula

Flower shows are great places to share your love of plants with family, friends, colleagues, and admirers.  Lisa, my older sister, is coming along with me today. She said she needs to “feel some spring” and break out of the doldrums of winter.  Don’t we all?  It seems to me spring is FAST approaching.  It won’t be long before our abundant snow melts, grass will green up, buds will swell on trees, and flowers like Helleborus, will pop out of the soil and say, “Hello, I’m back!”

I’m glad to be back at the CT Flower & Garden Show again this year to get inspired and look at what is new and different.  Why don’t you join me, us, and all the others at the show? Get into the magic! 

The flower show is at the CT Convention Center in downtown Hartford.  It begins today, Feb 24th and runs through Sunday, Feb 27th.   See for more information.  The CT Horticultural Society’s website is

Hope to see you there, Cathy T.

Caladium ‘Red Flash’

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Foliage for shade is something extremely important because the textural effects add interest to areas that can sometimes be challenging for the unexperienced gardener.  I say “unexperienced” because many newbie gardeners assume shade is just aweful to deal with for plantings, but it is not really.  In fact, I happen to feel some of my best planting combinations are areas of various shady conditions.  It is a matter of knowing the many options for shade loving perennials, trees, shrubs, and even annuals!

First you can start with making sure your shade area has some bulbs for spring blooms, but then focus on showy foliage candidates to help your garden carry its force in the summer to fall months.  Add an occassional annual shade lover, such as Caladium ‘Red Flash’, in your garden bed for more interest.  Or… as you may expect me to recommend…use a Caladium (ka-LAY-dee-um) and other shade annuals in a beautiful container garden to add a focal point or extra character to your shade bed.

Caladium ‘Red Flash’ is hardy to zones 9-11 so treat it as an annual here in CT.  It is actually, more technically stated, a tuberous perennial.  Caladium is another foliage fav because of its arrow-head shaped leaves, lovely reddish coloring down the center of the leaves, and the blue-green coloring on the outer edge of the leaves.  This year, I used it in a container combination for a business client with wonderful supporting partners as shown in this photo.

Design by Cathy T

You may notice some of the supporting candidates in this designer container garden are part sun-lovers.  Just as in nature, sometimes a canopy exists in container garden areas.  You can not see it in this photo, but there is a building overhang above this container garden offering some shade during some parts of the day.  In nature, a forest of higher trees can create a canopy of shade as well.  As you add shade loving shrubs to your landscape, you offer another layer or level to create rooms and shapes in the space.   Some of these tricks are achievable in container gardens too!

Partial shade are areas which receive about three to six hours of sun a day.  Light shade are on the more dappled side.  Medium shade are areas that get shade only part of the day based on timing of the day and the season as the sunrise or position changes, and full shade is in places where you get very little to no sun.  But who can keep track of all these shade considerations, right?!  Well, you can if you desire, but for container gardens, we know a bit of a repositioning can work if you discover your shady candidates aren’t faring well with just a push of the pot!

The various shade levels or conditions exist for container gardens depending on placement of your container.  For example, shadows cast by buildings or homes or even shadows cast by bigger thriller type plants in your containers can create these environments.  All of these aspects are covered in Cathy T’s Container Garden Parties and classes.  I show you how to take advantage of the shade considerations and not fight them, or fear them!

Other shade tolerant perennials on the list, if you need some help with your shade areas, are:  Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantel), Astilbe, Begonia, Bergenia, Brunnera, Carex (grass), Cimcifuga, Epimedium, Euphorbia, Hakonechloa, Helleborus, Heuchera, Hosta, Lamium, Ligularia, Liriope, Polygonatum, Pulmonaria, Tiarella, Tradescantia, and more!  All of these are, in my eyes, serve as great foliage candidates for various reasons – whether form, height, structure, style, or color.  To learn about shady favorites, when you are ready for help with your garden designs, feel free to contact me.  

And by the way, Caladiums are stored over winter and reused each season – another bonus!  This is another aspect covered in my Container Garden Parties.  I just love this foliage fancied plant and you will too.  There are many cultivars on the market – so be on the look out for them if you have shady conditions for your gardens or container displays at your home.  Cathy T

Amelanchier canadensis (Shadblow)

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Adding this tree to landscape designs is a treat for bringing spring interest to areas where the right conditions for the tree exists.  The fact it developes fruit so early in the season is a feel-good aspect because mother birds feed their young with the edible fruit – plus this tree is native and extremely showy when it blooms in early spring against a backdrop of a lush wooded area.  Earlier this year, I saw a hybrid of it growing natural by the roadside and took a photo of the blooms.  It would be difficult to identify exactly which Amelanchier it was because of the variations which exist in the wild.

Wild Shot

Amelanchiers can get confusing.  There is A. arborea (serviceberry, shadbush) and A. canadensis (shadblow, downy shadblow) and A. laevis (allegheny shadbush) but they all look the same to me!  Either as a small singled stemmed tree or multi-stemmed shrub with fine textured twiggy branches and smooth gray bark.  The blue green leaves turn to orange and yellow or dull red in the fall, so it has a nice end of season interest as well.  And again, the white flowering in early spring is showy before the leaves expand on this plant.  It is a great naturalizing looking plant near streams or other woodland trees.  You can use this tree near a patio or courtyard as well providing you have appropriate space.

It is deciduous and blooms around the same time shad spawn.  Yes, shad the fish!  Thus the common name, shadblow or shadbush.  The slightly fragrant white, 5-petaled  flowers bloom during the April to May timeframe.  The foliage is kind of dainty and narrow.  The shape of the tree is somewhat oval.  Place it in a sun to part shade location where there is average, moist, well-drained soils.  Look for the newer cultivars which are usually more resistant to disease or bug problems.  And remember to read the lables.  Plant labels are packed with information more than ever.  Read them for they can offer more explanation about the plant. 

Amelanchiers are useful as accents, along the woods as mentioned above, as a group planting for impact in the spring, and for fall color in an informal setting.  It starts to flower the first year and has a semi-fast growth rate. It is also native – another bonus!  Planting candidates indigenous to our local area is a good thing for you and the plants.  Since they are native, they are usually adaptable and easier to grow in some cases. 

Natives are growing in popularity too. To learn more about natives, visit where you can search by geography, just click the CT option to get a complete list.  Another great source are plants by the American Beauties Native Plants program.  Look for the American Beauties labels at your nurseries.  And look for the white blooms of Amelanchiers this spring!  Cathy T

Picea glauca ‘Conica’ (Dwarf Alberta Spruce)

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This is what I refer to as a “staple” conical or pyramidal foundation type shrub.  While some my think this shrub is not elite enough for their yards, it is a great option for the less finicky gardener or one looking to save money.  It is usually a cheaper price than let’s say prettier type shrubs of similar shape, like Boxwood or Holly, but it can serve its purposes.

Picea glauca ‘Conica’, the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, is a plant that can take some drought, grows slowly, doesn’t require pruning, and is a low-maintenance shrub.  Although it is listed as a dwarf, it can reach about 8 to 10 feet in 25 to 30 years.  Three feet wide, its shape becomes broader with age.  The needles are fine, small and medium green.  Densely branched on its stems.  It is a full plant that enjoys full sun, but it can take some shade.  And this plant does fine in large containers!

Sometimes folks overlook the shrub option when it comes to container gardening.  Go for a container size of a whiskey barrel or larger and let it serve you for many years.  Use it as a focal point or even a thriller in the container gardening world, then add different plants each season to dress it up.  Try pansies in spring, change them out in summer switching to summer bloomers.  Let it be a repeat performer in your landscape for many years over. 

Often I will move my container gardens with shrubs into my garage over the winter and then just roll them back out as soon as spring arrives, refresh the mulch, give it a slow introduction to watering again – and voila, I saved money this way!  Because the Dwarf Alberta Spruce is slow-growing and very tight, with the ability to take full sun and a bit of a dryer soil, it works great in containers.  However, should we get hit with a really hot summer, be sure to water it.  You can not just ignore it completely.  Sometimes this plant can get attacked by mites, especially if too dry or too hot.  This will be noticeable if you see signs of browning on the plant.  The weather conditions should be noted in other words.  If no rain, and a droughty season, be sure to visit your container to water it.  Its roots can’t reach out to the ground and it is dependent on you. 

Sometimes Dwarf Alberta Spruces will shoot out a stem that looks unlike like the others.  This is known as a sport.  The plant is actually reverting to his parent form.  When this occurs, and it did on one of mine, just prune it off just below the point of where it started.  This plant also does bloom, but it won’t be visible until you see bees hovering around it.  

Wholesale Yard Shot

Dwarf Alberta Spruces are also good to use as hedges, although it is not my preferred look for a hedge because of how they tend to get broad, like growing fat hips later.  But they can be used as windbreaks, to anchor corners, and even to bring a green background or raised green spot in the garden among other plantings and perennials in full sun locations.  So because of these traits, I don’t boycott Dwarf Alberta Spruces.  Yes, it is one of those common ones, but if it works for you, it is perfectly acceptable!  Cathy T

Abies concolor (White Fir)

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During a walk along a roadside near a golf course, I said to my walking partner, “Oh look, there is a concolor fir!” 

Abies concolor, the white or concolor fir, is one of my favorite conifers.  Its longer blue-ish needles, when broken open or crushed, smell just like oranges or tangerines as you hold it up to your nose! 

“Wow,” she replied. “It does!”

I have always enjoyed showing this “smelling” aspect to customers when I worked at a garden nursery.  They would be pleasantly surprised to experience that orangey fragrance, so I would point that out as one fun id feature, plus the fact that firs have flat needles. 

“Think F for firs,” I would say.  “That equals flat needles versus the spruces which are rhomboid (squared).  Spruce needles roll in your finger tips.”  I never used cones as an id feature because it takes many years before they grow on this conifer.

Scott Haney on our local CT Channel 3 news television show mentioned the concolor fir during the holiday times.  It is an option for a Christmas tree should you be lucky enough to find one.  And concolor firs are great for your landscape too! 

The concolor fir’s mature height is 40 to 70 feet with a spread of about 20-30 feet.  This evergreen conifer is shaped like most christmas trees with a straight trunk and narrow-like conical shape.  Upper branches tend to grow up-ward.  The blue-ish soft “flat”  needles grow to about 2.5″ long and have a nice surface appeal to them.  They are not as stiff as with blue spruce needles. 

Light requirements for the concolor firs are full sun to part shade and it appreciates a rich soil with medium moisture, slightly on the acidic side.  It does not grow that well in clay soils.  And best of all, this evergreen conifer does not experience serious pest problems from what I’ve learned to date about it.  Plus deer are unlikely to browse them!  Another bonus.

In the landscape, it is well suited as a large specimen provided you have the conditions noted above on your property.  It maintains its foliage all the way to the ground and has a slow to moderate growth rate.  Hardy to zones 3-7.

People don’t often know about this conifer choice.  And due to its soft blue needles, in my opinion, it makes a nice alternative.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of it in my database.  I’ll have to snap one for you during my next long walk!  Cathy T

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora ‘Fantastic’ (Paddle Plant)

    The Paddle Plant has a new fashionable look this year!  Check out Kalanchoe thyrsiflora ‘Fantastic’ with its red highlights!  I just read of this new cultivar in a trade magazine this month.  It was the recipient of the Favorite New Foliage Plant Award and Retailer’s Choice Award at the 2010 Tropical Plant Industry Exposition.  It is no wonder.  Its hot new red coloring on its paddles’ edges increases the visual response to its already interesting texture.
    Kalanchoe Fantastic-ForemostCo (click this link)
    In 2010, at the Boston Flower Show, I happen to take a picture of the straight species in a pot.  I am not sure why I took a photo of it other than I probably wanted to remember that I liked it.  And somewhere along the line this summer, I bought a paddle plant.  It is still sitting in a clay pot by my slider.  It has shot up quite a bit new growth (or paddles) and seems to be very happy awaiting for warmer temperatures to arrive.  So after testing it at my home, it is confirmed.  I love this plant, will seek it, and hope to find the ‘Fantastic’ cultivar just spotted in that trade magazine. Full sun is the best place for this plant as you would guess.  And in a place where water is well drained.  It despises wet soils.  Pair it up with other succulents.  Or try to capture the red highlights displayed on this plant with other companions that bloom red during the summer season.

    K. thyrsiflora

    Kalanchoe (pronounced KAL-an-choe-ee) is a tropical succulent perennial or subshrub.  It can grow 1 to 12 feet tall depending on the species.  I’m not surprised.  Mine has been growing all winter without much attention.  6 to 12″ of new grow can occur each year. It is hardy in zones 10-11, thus serves as an indoor house plant for CT or as a container gardening candidate in the heat of summer.  The unusal paddle like leaves are a way for the plant to retain water, much needed in the desert drought-like environments it is suited for.  Once again, I’m drawn to the tropical style of plants.

Burgundy Hearts Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘Greswan’


“Did you see my redbud?  It is gorgeous this year!”  And it was.  I snapped a photo of it immediately.

That day at my client’s home, she showed me her redbud tree in her backyard next to her back deck.  I’ve always liked this tree because of its unique flowering pattern that runs the line of every branch giving it an asian feel.  The flowers appear in spring before the leaves expand.  And the foliage is heart shaped. ‘Forest Pansy’ is a common favorite to point out to folks at the nursery because not only are the flowers beautiful, the color of the heart-shape leaves are plum-ish versus the traditional green.

New redbuds (Cercis canadensis) cultivars are coming out of the woodwork more often it seems.  Another one that caught my eye recently at a tradeshow was Burgundy Hearts® Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Greswan’).  The leaves are a tad bit larger and are a wine-red color, a bit lighter than ‘Forest Pansy’.  In early spring, the rosy-purple, pea-shaped flowers expand around March-April timeframe, before the leaves.  Hummingbirds and bees enjoy the early welcome as spring awakens their senses and our’s.  And this new introduction, ‘Greswan’, is noted for proven resistance to summer leaf sorch better than my former best on my list ‘Forest Pansy’.

Smaller trees tend to be my favorite in the landscape.  Burgundy Hearts® Redbud grows to about 20-25 feet at maturity.  It is fast growing and native.  In the late summer to fall, the red-purple color to the leaves transition to a more wine-red burgundy color.  It is cold hardy to zone 5 and heat tolerant to zone 8.  Place it in a full to partial sun location and let your heart begin to pound with love!

If you tend to like a hotter and warmer color to your landscape, another option in the redbud world is Cercis canadensis ‘JN2’, known as The Rising Sun™ Redbud.  It is a new introduction with brilliant, golden yellow to orange colored leaves.  It has a full, round shape and holds its color into fall.  The pea-like shaped flowers are a rosy-orchid color.  Another feature that makes this one a bit more unique to the rest of the redbuds is the bark – it has a yellow tinge to it.  The size of this one is even a bit better for smaller areas.  It reaches 12 feet at maturity. 

The Rising Sun™ Redbud is a vigorous grower and also a native ornamental tree.  It is cold hardy to zones 5-8 and appreciates full sun locations.  I can’t think of anything about these plants that are a downfall, other than if I don’t plant one soon, I may die of a broken redbud heart!  I vow to incorporate some more flowering trees in my landscape this spring, and hope to locate these beauties on the scene.  I hope you will too!  Cathy T

Finally located the photo I took of the redbud at my client’s home, here it is!

Redbud Blooms