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

Thread-leaved Mulberry

morus-alba-itoguwa-finger-640

 

An aquatic grass?  A curly-leaved rush?  A Japanese maple that got its fingers caught in a socket?  A perennial something-or-other?  Nope.  It's a mulberry—one that, when it entered the "I'm more cut-leaf than you are" competition, just didn't know when to say when.

 

'Itoguwa' is all shred and, seemingly, no actual leaf.  But that doesn't stop it from putting out stems—and a whole lot of them—that get two feet long by September.  That's long enough to sproing through adjacent plants as well as flounce out onto the bluestone walkway I'm kneeling on to take the picture below. 

 

morus-alba-itoguwa-overall-640

 

Who knew a mere mulberry—let alone one that's a weed tree—could sport a cultivar so lacy it makes even a thread-leaf Japanese maple look like a lead-foot? 

 

'Itoguwa'  foliage is so extreme it's immune to judgments of taste or propriety.  Way beyond mere aesthetics, it's an achievement, teetering right at the edge of the world of laciniated foliage.  There is no solid ground beyond 'Itoguwa'; if you're more cut-leaf than this, you're just air.  

 

 

Here's how to grow this bizarre shrub:

 

Latin Name

Morus alba 'Itoguwa'

Common Name

Thread-leaf Mulberry / 'Nuclear Blast' Mulberry

Family

Moraceae, the Mulberry family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous dwarf tree.

Hardiness

Zones 5 to 9; sometimes listed as Zone 4 - 9 

Habit

Largely prostrate, with pendulous-to-mounding stems as well.  

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

A clump to three feet across and two feet tall.

Texture

Its many stems bear a lot of long and incredibly "thready" foliage, for a surprisingly dense but irregular "Cousin Itt" appeal.  The tree could easily be mistaken for a perennial or even a curly-leaved grass or rush.

Grown for

its foliage: Non-flowering, 'Itoguwa' is all about leaves and habit.  The long leaves are so narrow they would seem to be nothing but leaf veins without a shred (so to speak) of productive chlorophyllic tissue.  I don't know where the shrub gets the energy for such speedy and many-stemmed growth.

 

its habit: The stems are casually semi-upright at best, leaning on as well as growing through neighboring plants.  They are just as happy to be fully prostrate.

Flowering season

'Itoguwa' is not known to flower.

Culture

Full sun to part shade, in any reasonable soil with average-to-good drainage in the Winter.

How to handle it

The stems of thread-leaf mulberry are lax, so if it's not to be swamped by its neighbors, this is a shrub that needs to be planted at the front of a bed.  But you can't have grass abutting your bed: All the mulberry stems would just get mowed off.  So plant only in beds that abut paving, out onto which the stems can flop and flounce with their peculiar lazy energy.

 

A terrific contrast with short plants with smooth large leaves, let alone leaves whose color is much brighter or darker.  (If the large leaves are tall, the mulberry is liable to get swamped, instead.)  Think about plants that are under a foot tall:  Dwarf hostas, bergenias, and hardy ginger would all be short enough to provide a low "mattress" of contrasting foliage, atop of which the mulberry stems can recline and preen.  What about purple ajugas and heucheras?  Heuchera 'Obsidian', say, with black-purple leaves.  Or—best of all—the rigid, corrugated, coral-like, oil-slick purple foliage of Ajuga reptans 'Metallica Crispa'.  I must rearrange my own 'Itoguwa' neighbors to make room for at least an "ottoman" of  'Metallica Crispa', if not a full mattress.

 

'Itoguwa' can also be backed by medium-tall sword-like foliage, against which it can froth insouciantly.  Siberian iris, variegated iris, or variegated yucca in cold climates, but if you're fortunate to garden in Zones 8 and 9, go for the smaller of the purple- or striped-leaved phormiums.  Marvelous!

 

For me, 'Itoguwa' dies back right to stumps by Spring, but this could just be the result of my mucky Winter-wet soil.  No matter: By late May, 'Itoguwa' resprouts so profusely and grows so quickly that by September it's full-size again.

Downsides

If you've got a thing against radically-dissected foliage, 'Itoguwa' will be loathsome.  Tisk tisk.

Variants

M. alba 'Pendula' is a very popular small weeping tree in Zones 4 and 5, where so many other plants aren't hardy.  Go to Canada and you'll see a lot of weeping mulberries.   M. alba 'Paper Dolls' has foliage that can be strongly-variegated in light green and white, but only in response to diligent pruning; I speak from experience.  A frustrating cultivar.  There's also a cut-leaved cultivar, 'Laciniata', whose foliage is, nonetheless, much less shredded than that of 'Itoguwa'. 

 

Morus alba itself is generally thought of as a weed tree, self-seeding easily and tolerating a wide variety of otherwise trying conditions. 

 

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By cuttings, layering, and grafting.  Hmm:  What about an 'Itoguwa' standard

Native habitat

Morus alba is native to northern China; M. alba 'Itoguwa' originated in Japan.

 
 
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