A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: New Stems of Regel's Wingnut

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While getting up from an exploratory mid-Winter stoop at the front of yet another experimental plant—"Hmm, how is this poor thing doing? Is it alive or has Winter done in it already?"—my mild ophidiophobia (fear of snakes; I just learned the word) erupted. I lurched back just in time, my inner monologue shouting: "OMG! Thin cinnamon snake by your ear. Take all evasive action!"

 

Silly me: New stems of Regel's wingnut are wiry enough to swoop across a yard or two of open space before they find their next stem to twine around. And, as this cinnamon beauty shows, they can be remarkably showy in the Winter.

 

Instead of the sandpapery solid-cinnamon of the stem above, this one chose a spiral theme. Same plant, just three feet away.

 

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The bark of older stems is boring, but serves as dramatic contrast with that of the new, each of whose colorful surfaces is immediately in evidence directly at its point of origin.

 

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Three questions: First: Can Tripterygium regelii be grown to maximize production of these showy new stems? My plant is scrambling up through an espaliered conifer, Cryptomeria japonica 'Sekkan Sugi', that is set well back in a large bed. The display of these unusual Winter stems isn't even readily accessible, let alone displayed to advantage. What about planting another Tripterygium, but twining it up a post, and pollarding it in Spring, so it produces the most new stems?  

 

Second: If one stem was solid cinnamon, but another, quite nearby, was a snappy cream spiral, are there other patterns of still other stems?

 

Third: How did I—or, rather, even I, ostensibly a plant geek—still not know that the young stems of Regel's wingnut were so remarkable in the Winter? Has this plant's cold-season talent been bruited before? If even I didn't know about it, well, I think not.

 

It's these "OMG" discoveries that are one reason I'm in the garden every day. I had thought that today's excitement in this patch of ground was checking on the condition of a "hardy" palm planted three feet below the portion of the vine in the picture above. Looking back at the lead picture in that post, I see that, already, the cinnamon stems of first-year Tripterygium were on display. Distracted by the palm, I hadn't even noticed.

 

What else am I not noticing? The only hope of finding a clue to the answer is to head back out into the garden.  Every day.

 

 

Here's how intriguing the mature papery "wingnuts" of Tripterygium are.

 

Here's how to grow Tripterygium, and to see pictures of this plant's beautiful flowers, showy foliage, colorful young wingnuts, and colorful—but with quite a different color!—young stems in Summer.

 

 
 
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