Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Green Stems of Tree Caragana

Caragana arborescens stems fingers 112215 640


Before Thanksgiving, we're all still limbering up for the aesthetic contortions needed to get through Winter. Here's one to practice as you study the picture below: "Wow, these young stems of tree caragana stems really are an exciting shade of green!" Keep repeating as you look at the picture below, where these same two pots of Caragana arborescens are displayed cheek-by-jowl. 


Caragana arborescens overall 112215 640


Humph: From any distance, stems that appeared green close-up seem more like tan.


Don't give up on Caragana arborescens just yet. First, it isn't called Siberian peashrub for nothing; it really is hardy in Novosibirsk, let alone Duluth. Plus, it fixes nitrogen and revels in poor dry soil. And when pruned hard, the display of sort-of-green young stems formed when the shrub is growing free-range is intensified. OK, merely improved. But that pruning will also shape the plants into either of these striking geometric shapes: a shaving-brush of greenish stems emerging from a low woody base, or an oval-to-rounded head of greenish stems emerging at the top of a straight trunk.


In 2016, I'll finally begin training some shrubs of Caragana arborescens into shapely and—at least when seen with eyes that have accommodated to the more muted hues of the cold season—amazingly colorful specimens. Stay tuned.


Here's how to grow Caragana arborescens, as well as a look at its graceful foliage mid-Spring to mid-Fall. To maximize the display of its greenish young twigs, look at the second "How to handle it" and "Quirks" boxes.


Here's a cold-weather portrait of the cut-leaf cultivar of Caragana arborescens, 'Walkeri', whose habit is strongly pendulous.

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