Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

The Best Spring Ever: Chinese Mahogany

This is the 'Flamingo' cultivar of Chinese mahogany and, for a few weeks at the start of the season, the flamboyant inference of a flamingo certainly applies: Look at that pink-blushed white foliage!


Toona sinensis Flamingo upright 030816 640


Foliage with this coloring is so rare in hardy plants that, to me, even a brief show is worth the long boredom the rest of the year. In Summer, the foliage is plain green, making Toona sinensis 'Flamingo' mistakable for the notorious weed-tree, Ailanthus altissima. All Winter, this is a leafless (and still little) branchy thicket, with neither cool bark nor interesting form.. But that Spring foliage!


I grow my 'Flamingo' in a container even though the tree is likely to be hardy outside in a garden in warm Zone 6, because the tree requires better drainage than my rich deep soil and flat terrain can provide. In past years, I've stowed the dormant plant in the completely dark basement for the Winter, and brought it directly back out into the garden while still dormant in early Spring. Then, it would leaf out in synch with the developing season. With such handling, its emerging foliage is bubble-gum pink, as in the pictures in the link below. 


This past Winter, I stored the pot in the greenhouse, which enjoys ambient daylight and is never colder than fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Without the basement's enforced regimen of pitch darkness until May, the tree was able to emerge from dormancy solely on the basis of the lengthening days. It began leafing out in mid-February, and by early March was in the "full fledge" of the picture above. In the coming weeks, I'll check each time I visit the greenhouse (every few days at the most) on how the color develops further en route to the dull green of Summer.


As I wrote in the profile in the link, there's scant literature on factors that might affect the Spring coloring of 'Flamingo', so the tree's performance involves pleasant suspense. I certainly don't ever recall that the unfolding foliage had ever turned white. Is this a result of overwintering in the cool greenhouse instead of the dark-and-also-cool basement? Or that only diffuse sunlight can penetrate the greenhouse's double thickness of poly "skin?" Or that, before being brought into shelter last Fall, the tree never experienced temperatures much below freezing? Or is it just the luck of the draw for this particular Spring?


As I continue to nurture this containered tree year by year, I should be able to firm up what circumstances lead to what coloring—and to adjust them to maximize the display.



Here's how to grow Toona sinensis 'Flamingo' so that it thrives year after year and each Spring produces foliage that is colorful (of whatever hue). You'll also see that, in the bright sun of a still-cool Spring, the foliage emerges deep pink instead of ghostly white.

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