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

Allegheny Spurge

pachysandra-procumbens-with-finger-640

 

Fluffy, shocking white, interesting leaves:  This isn't normal for a pachysandra.  Hooray!

 

Indeed, it's not normal, because it's not the normal pachysandra.  This is the American native of the genus:  Allegheny spurge, Pachysandra procumbens.  Normal pachysandra—"pachysandra" to gardeners and folks-on-the-street world-wide— is its Asian cousin, Pachysandra terminalis.  It's the Toyota of the family: no matter where you travel, it's there for you.

 

Allegheny spurge—truly named: It's native to West Virginia—is the artisanal and "locogro" choice to make.  Not rampant enough (and so, not cheap enough, either) to cover acre after acre, and too interesting to behold acre after acre anyway.  Savor your Allegheny spurge by the square foot. 

 

For instance, those flowers.  Oxydol white; "whiter than white" white.  At close-range, even more fun. 

 

pachysandra-procumbens-crop-640

 

Like coral, each little flower is a four-armed creature with tan pincer-like pollen pads at the tip of each glaring-white arm, I mean pistil.  And everything coordinating smartly with the branches of the tan-into-pink support structure.

 

The tan—or maybe we can call it something more fashionable: Savannah, Sandstone, Canyon—of the flower structures also makes an appearance in the leaves. Allegheny spurge is a plant that inspires as well as merits enthusiastic phrasing.  How about, "A blush of Savannah between the lighter veins."

 

pachysandra-procumbens-bloom-640

 

Too chic, almost, because the evergreen foliage gets dinged up over the Winter (as it has here).  An even better aesthetic strategy is to cut the leaves off entirely, which also ramps up the whole "Is it white coral?" look.  (I'll try clipping my colony next April.  You'll see it here.)  Soon after the flowers are through, Allegheny spurge abandons last year's leaves in favor of a fresh crop anyway, so clipping off the old leaves is only doing by one way what the plant itself will soon do by another.

 

It's a good thing that this plant doesn't gallop along yard after yard: Clipping off a few clumps of Spring foliage is a cool and fun two minutes in mid April; clipping room-sized rugs of it would be slavery.  Not even the resultant expanse of white coral— a shag rug of spurge!—would convince me to expand my colony beyond a few square feet. 

 

 

Here's how to grow this superior groundcover:

 

Latin Name

Pachysandra procumbens

Common Nam

 Allegheny spurge

Family

Buxaceae, the boxwood family.

What kind of plant is it?

Shade-loving perennial.  Evergreen from Zone 6 up; deciduous in Zones 5 and 4.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 10

Habit

Clumping and not in a big hurry to expand, Allegheny spurge couldn't be a bigger contrast to its Asian cousin, Pachysandra terminalis, which can spread quickly to form a groundcover in two years.

Rate of Growth

Diligent and reliable, but not fast.

Size in ten years

A clump two to three feet across, six to eight inches high

Texture

Thick and substantial, even leathery.  Like, say, ajuga on steroids.

Grown for

its many and substantial contrasts with omnipresent Pachysandra terminalisPachysandra procumbens has silver-mottled foliage; showy white-with-pink flowers in early Spring followed by an entirely fresh new crop of foliage; doesn't race around the garden (but also, therefore, doesn't form a groundcover nearly as fast); and is, in toto, distinctive enough and restrained enough to be grown as an ornamental perennial not a workhorse groundcover.

 

In Fall, the silver foliage mottling increases; each leaf is an individual essay in variegation.

Flowering season

Early Spring

Culture

Requires some shade, and tolerates quite a lot of it.  Any reasonable soil and a decent amount of water. 

How to handle it

Plant this as an ornamental, not a rug-to-be.  The flowers are colorful and unusually-structured enough to merit being accessible to humans on hands and knees, so plant right at the front of a shady bed.

 

They are so pleasant to see (and also fragrant if you can hunch over far enough to put your nose in them) that you'll want to remove unsightly foliage before the blooms come out (in mid-April in Southern New England).  While the foliage is surprisingly tough, it can still be damaged or go completely deciduous in a really severe Winter.

 

Attending to your Allegheny spurge, then, is one of the first small pleasures of the early Spring gardening season.  All the more reason to site the plant right along a shady walkway, so you don't have to slog through (or kneel in) mud to attend to and appreciate it.

Downsides

Would make an impressive as well as gorgeous groundcover—but you'll need to plant it much more densely (and expensively) than Pachysandra terminalis, which spreads so much more quickly and is dirt-cheap.  On the other hand, an acre of Pachysandra is just...an acre of pachysandra.  Even a ten-by-ten patch of Allegheny spurge would be a photograph-worthy achivement, and in bloom worth live coverage.

Variants

None

Availability

On-line and in local retailers

Propagation

Stem cuttings or division of the rhizomatous roots.  (The latter is easier and more productive.)

Native habitat

Like the name implies, native of the mid-Atlantic Appalachian mountains of West Virginia.  It's also native down to Florida and across to Louisiana.  With such a predominantly Southern origin, its hardiness to the far North of Vermont and Maine shows a true cosmopolitan ease.


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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