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

Freckles Mexican bamboo

polygonum-cuspidatum-freckles-closer-640

 

Looking as graphic as wall-paper or your new screen-saver—and with (almost) none of the bounding habits of the species, Freckles is the knotweed to grow.

 

It's the centerpiece of one of my Pink Borders, so it had better be up to the challenge of being in the spotlight without getting stage fright.

 

With such technicolor foliage, I'd say this is a plant that was born to perform.  In Spring, the leaves are pure cream, which really highlights the hot-pink of the leaf stems.

 

polygonum-cuspidatum-freckles-closest-640

 

Fortunately, because my Pink Borders are working towards a hot-weather peak, they are just waking up in Spring.  So 'Freckles', which is almost its full height by Memorial Day, can hog the stage shamelessly. 

 

polygonum-cuspidatum-freckles-overall-640

 

In April, when there's no one in the gardens but me and the rabbits, 'Freckles' does a curtain-raiser:  The new canes poke above ground as cream-white, and the leaves are Bubblelicious Pink.

 

polygonum-cuspidatum-freckles-sprouts-640

 

By comparison, the May performance of white leaves and pink stems is almost tame.

 

 

 

Here's how to grow this colorful perennial:

 

Latin Name

Polygonum cuspidatum 'Freckles'

Common Name

'Freckles' Mexican bamboo

Family

Polygonaceae, the Knotweed family.

What kind of plant is it?

Large perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 5b - 8

Habit

Upright and spreading.

Rate of Growth

Medium to fast.

Size in ten years

Five to six feet tall and eight feet wide.

Texture

Delicate and graceful despite its size, with white leaves dangling from branched canes.  It's as if the plant were the hugest colony of 'Money Plant' (Lunaria annua) you ever saw—at least if your 'Money Plant' was also dressed to party.

Grown for

the extraordinary coloring of the foliage, which is almost pure white when young but matures to green heavily spotted with white.

 

the Summer flowers, which are billed as "red" but are actually a deep rose-pink. 

 

its supposedly non-running lifestyle.  It does venture outward from the mother clump, but not with the block-by-block aggression of the species itself. 

Flowering season

Late Summer: August into September here in Rhode Island.

Culture

Easy!  Full sun and any decent soil.  Faster in richer soil, which would actually be a good thing: It takes a few years for colonies to get more than two or three feet tall.

How to handle it

With (almost) none of the gleeful aggression of the plain-green knotweed, 'Freckles' can be welcomed to any garden big enough for the height and width of its mature clump without worrying that the clump will have raced outward into an entire colony by next Summer. 

 

Cut the canes down to the ground after hard frosts in the Fall so you don't risk damaging the fragile new canes the following Spring.  With foliage this bright you'll know right away if a wandering rhizome or two has arisen.  They're shallow, and quick to sever from the mother clump.  Pot up a couple for Spring plant sales. 

 

The canes branch and branch again as Summer progress, so it's easy to clip the clump back a bit in August without it looking either bare or "meatballed."  Given the small size of mail-order plants (or the potted one-sprout rhizome you yourself may have bought at a local plant sale), it's almost inevitable that you won't have given 'Freckles' enough room for it to grow unfettered as a mature clump. 

 

In my experience, 'Freckles' doesn't self-seed.

Downsides

'Freckles' isn't quite the non-running clumper it's sold as.

Variants

'Spectabilis' has almost as exciting variegation, but with white flowers instead of red-pink.  'Variegatum' has (alas) all the relentless vigor of the species despite having leaves heavily splashed with tan.  'Crimson Beauty' is truly a well-behaved clumper, with full-height canes, all-green foliage, and zillions of small red flowers in September.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

Division.

Native habitat

'Freckles' was developed at www.PlantDelights.com.  Despite the "Mexican bamboo" common name, Polygonum cuspidatum is native to Japan.

 
 
FacebookTwitterRSS Feed

Stay in touch!

 

Sign up for twice-monthly eNews, plus notification of new posts:

 

* indicates required