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

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Spicebush in Flower—but with Smaller Flowers

Flowers of spice bush teach you to value small details. Though the flowers of the other species of spicebush I profiled a few days ago are tiny, the fluffiness of their protruding pollen-bearing stalks—the anthers—gives them extra size and presence.


The flowers of this spice bush below seem to lack those anthers—I've checked day by day; they just aren't there—and so their size is noticeably smaller.




If anything, the effect is even more charming, with yellow-green bits at the base of the emerging green leaves. But why the difference in the flowers in the first place? Why are those of one bush fluffy, and the other, not? This bush is a female of the species. Flowers of female Lindera benzoin have no pollen and, so, no fluffy pollen-bearing anthers.


If you plant Lindera in groups, having both sexes in that group will produce a somewhat odd display of flowers: Those of the males will be fluffier; those of the females, distinctly smaller. If you didn't know that bushes of this species were either male or female, you might think that the bushes with smaller flowers were just late or, worse, inferior. Even if you do know that Lindera benzoin keeps its sexes separate, the pure aesthetics of juxtaposing female and male flowers aren't great.


As they say in political commentary, the "optics" of the juxtaposed male and female flowers are poor. Female flowers bear the colorful red fruits, though, so female shrubs have an "optical" advantage later in the season, when the males will be just foliage.


There are two ways to help each sex of Lindera benzoin provide its best show. First, plant both of them in groups but, second, in same-sex groups. Try to have something tall and intervening between them, so they are near enough for ready cross-pollination, but not readily seen in the same glance.


But buying sexed plants of Lindera is easier said than done. Spice bush is propagated mainly from seed, and seed-grown bushes can only be sexed when in flower or in fruit. Yes, there are some named cultivars, whose sex is easy to determine even if it isn't marked on the plant label itself. But named cultivars don't come true from seed, and Lindera is tricky to propagate by cuttings. So those cultivars are hard to find.


The best option is to shop for Lindera when the shrubs are in flower. Nurseries will be glad to see you so early in their new season. Unless you live and nursery-shop much farther north, even, than here in New England, the buy-in-bloom window for Lindera benzoin has already closed. Mark your calendar for 2014.


I'll profile spice bush soon.

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