Jimmy Turner, the Senior Director of Gardens for the Dallas, Texas Arboretum is our guest writer this week. Jimmy runs one of the largest trial programs in the United States in his sixty-six acre display garden. His “Rising Stars” are plants that have survived every vagary the Dallas weather has to offer: Heat, drought, high humidity, wind, and hail. Then there is the soil, called Houston Black. It consists of layers of clay that alternately swell with water and then shrink as they dry out, causing cracks in the surface. Gardening under these conditions explains Jimmy’s motto: “If we can’t kill it, nobody can.”
Just a few years back, no one had ever heard of loropetalum or Chinese fringe flower, but now you can find the plant everywhere. This Chinese native has taken the Texas landscape by storm with its easy-to-grow nature and bright pink flowers on deep plum-purple foliage. I believe, though, that with the introduction of ‘Purple Pixie’ this plant will become even more popular.
The lorapetalum varieties that have been on the market range in mature height from 6 feet to 15 feet, which isn’t a bad thing unless you’ve planted yours where you wanted a 3 to 4-foot-tall shrub. In that case, it is constant pruning for you. Personally, I abhor shrubs cut into boxes, lollipops, meatballs, or any unnatural shapes.
If you have a super formal garden, then it’s OK, if done right and with boxwoods. (Apparently some gardeners have more time or money than I do to keep up that level of constant pruning.)
The best advice is to take ultimate mature height into consideration when planting around your house, or you’ll suffer for it eventually. That brings me back to ‘Purple Pixie’ loropetalum- this plant doesn’t need to be hedged to stay compact! It grows to only 2 feet tall, and it will spread to 4 or 5 feet, just the perfect size for under windows!
Read more about the Dallas Arboretum plant trials HERE
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