CHRYSANTHA PAPYRIFERA 'AKEBONO', A RARE SHRUB IS BEGINNING INTO BLOOM UNDER GLASS.
Outside, the world is encased in ice, but in the greenhouse, my sort-of, winter garden, rarely seen tender shrubs from China and South America are starting to bloom. The first of these shrubs to bloom this mid-winter is an Edgeworthia chrysantha 'rubra', an even more unusual strain of an Asian shrub where even the more common species is rare enough.
I first saw Edgeworthia on mid February day, not unlike today, where temperatures rose above freezeing. I was spending a Sunday walking in Tokyo when I was struck by an oddly blooming shrub, with branches all bare and woody, but with small arching branches with tubular waxy fragrant blossoms the color of heirloom chicken eggs, golden yellow and white. I was dumbstruck, for I had never seen this plant before.
Fast forward 8 years to today, in my Massachusetts green house, as I strolled around in the early morning sunlight picking some Camellia's for my fathers 97th birthday party here at the home. I turned the corner, and there was my shrubby Edgwothia growing in a large clay tub, and the dormant buds that look like coins on fuzzy pipe cleaners, tiny buds the colors of Clementine oranges, were beginning to open.
These two images are shared by a reader, Mike Huben, taken at the Planting Fields Arboretum on Long Island, NY. If you check the link under my comments section to another readers Flickr page, you can see how confusing the nomenclature is between the two species. Either way, both species are fine additions to any Zone 7 garden. Edgeworthia are magical while in bloom.
This rarely seen shrub (which is too tender to survive in our New England climate) is kept under glass from December until April, so I choose to grow in in a large tub. In this way, I can bring it into the glass house for the winter after the frost nips the foliage and it drops off. Edgworthia papyrifera has a fascinating history in Asia, where it is still highly treasured in the mountains for China for use in the making of fine papers. As a garden plant in warmer zones like Zone 8-10, it is known as an early-blooming plant that shows it's daphne-like blooms in late February and early March. Under the protection of glass, it will bloom earlier.
This is the first year that I am growing Edgeworthia in a container, after seeing one at the New England Flower show two years ago being grown in a large terra cotta pot, and after seeing a lovely specimen in Tokyo's Ueno Park, where it was blooming in the snow planted in the ground,I knew that I had to get one.. Both of these specimens that I has seen, where the more conventional white forms of Edgeworthia papyrifera. Apparently, there is still some disagreement between taxonomists on whether the species grown in cultivations are E. papyrifera or E. chrysantha, ( one reader makes the argument that the species I have is actually E. papyrifera 'Akebono' because it's branches are so thin and because the peduncles are long rather than short ( who wants short peduncles, anyway!). (The peduncle in case you are wondering is the stem that attaches the blossoms to the branch.
It will be fun to watch these 'coins' of buds open on this species, I will share more photos as well as the entire shrub, so that you can see how the entire shrub looks. I am becoming enamored with many shrubs from warmer zones for culture in my cold greenhouse. The shrubs make winter bearable, for instance, today, with the sunshine today, and the warm moist air under glass, if felt better than any spa treatment.