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

Upright Japanese Bush Clover

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White flowers by the countless thousands:  Here's what to plant so you can have them in October.  No, not the normal white bush clover, 'Avalanche'.  All too appropriately named, that floriferous beauty can tumble almost to the ground just as it reaches full flower. 

 

Instead, this cousin of Lespedeza thunbergii, L. japonica.  Without any staking or pinching at all, it's still credibly upright and billowing even after one hurricane and several monsoon-like storms. 

 

I grow the white-flowered form, which is the cosmpolitan partner to anything at all in the garden, from chrome to red to apricot to mauve. 

 

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Deer ignore Lespedeza, and not of one of them needs supplemental watering.  In every garden, please!

 

 

Here's how to grow this unusually upright bush clover:

 

Latin Name

Lespedeza japonica

Common Name

Japanese bush clover

Family

Fabaceae, the Pea family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous flowering shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 9.  

Habit

Upright and broad, as it nears its late Summer flowering, broader still.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

Six or seven feet tall and wide.

Texture

Delicate and responsive to the breezes, bringing fine-grained movement to the garden.

Grown for

its habit:  The "normal" Lespedeza is L. thunbergii, which is strongly arching, cascading, and (frankly) flopping unless you intervene.  L. japonica is notably upright, and even at its widest, during its September bloom season, it's still distinctly vertical compared to L. thunbergii.   

 

its flowers: pure white typical "pea family" flowers by the tens of thousands over a long season in late Summer.

 

its deer-proof-ness:  Critters don't like Lespedeza, not a leaf or a flower.  Whew. 

 

its toughness:  Full sun and dry soil don't phase it at all—and might even keep it more compact and self-supporting.

 

its rarity: L. thunbergii is (or should be) a part of any full-sun garden that has the room for it.  (See Variants below for some of the choices.)  For a number of years, L. japonica has been, to my knowledge, unavailable at any mail-order nursery, although I originally bought mine on-line from, I think, Plant Delights.   

Flowering season

Later than the "usual" L. thunbergii varieties, as lovely as they are in the August peak season:  Mid-September into October.

Culture

Full sun and decent to fantastic drainage.  Established bush clovers don't need supplemental watering.

How to handle it

Planting in full sun and dry soil helps keep the plant more compact—but, on the other hand, L. japonica's joy is its very verticality, so why not plant to encourage it?  L. japonica gets plenty tall enough—and fast enough—to be an excellent warm-weather screen.  But, yes, it does widen out as it comes into bloom.  This is graceful, unlike L. thunbergii, where the plant can look like the deer slept on it.  But the outward lean during flowering does decrease L. japonica's height. 

 

It's better to discretely stake the clump in August so it still has time before flowering to complete its growth out through the staking.  I have a line-up of three clumps, and I should just pound in a permanent rebar stake at either end and one more between each pair, so I can give the trio some easy backbone by putting some horizontal lines between the stakes each August. 

 

You can also stake-up Lespedeza after-the-fact—after it's started to bloom and widen—without it looking like the clump has been taken hostage.

 

If verticality is important but all-possible height is not, you've also got the option of the cutting the new stems back by half in early June. 

 

However you stake or pinch (or don't), don't miss the opportunity to prune the entire colony right down to the ground in early Spring.  New stems sprout just below the soil level as well as from the base of last year's stems.  Because Lespedeza blooms only at the tips of current-season growth, last year's growth is beside the point.  (And the last thing you need is to have stems be even taller, anyway.)  If your Winter is severe enough, you may well have a lot of tip die-back, too.  Whatever the situation, don't just cut the stems part-way back in early Spring.  All the way to the ground, please.  It's a great early-Spring task to get you back in the saddle.

Downsides

None.

Variants

Although there are several dozen species in the Lespedeza family, the garden-worthy ones seem to be concentrated in L. japonica and L. thunbergii.  'Gibralter' is the deep-pink L. thunbergii, 'Avalanche' is 'Gibralter' but with white flowers, although some sources attribute to 'Avalanche' the same upright and late-flowering habit as L. japonica.  There are cultivars that are somewhat shorter—but still with pink flowers—as well as with variegated leaves that, to me, are too subtle to be worth the space.  But that's also because I have a pair of 'Gibralter' and three L. japonica, a lot of scarce real estate given to Lespedeza already.

Availability

I look forward to being able to buy L. japonica again.  Do you know of a source?  Let me know, please.

Propagation

By "division" in Spring.  I use quotes because the base of Lespedeza is extraordinarily woody, and will ignore any divisive attack by even your heaviest shovel, with you jumping atop it.  I "divide" by using a folding saw, hacking off a small rooted portion from the mother.  You'd need a chain-saw to truly divide a clump, with a back-hoe to yank it from the ground first.

Native habitat

Lespedeza japonica is native to (duh) Japan.

 
 
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