All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

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"All Sorts of Rare, Hard-to-Find, and Unusual Plants"

It's always fun to grow something different in the garden. Rare, hard-to-find, and unusual plants add interest to the garden and there are many rare, hard-to-find, and unusual trees, shrubs, perennials, and house plants. Click on a plant name below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Japanese Katsura tree is a lesser-known tree with outstanding attributes. When young, this rare tree has an upright, pyramidal shape, but with age it has a more oval to rounded shape. It's also a multi-trunked tree developing many stems. It has small, rounded leaves that emerge reddish purple in spring. The leaves change to light green then eventually become blue green by late summer. In autumn, the leaves turn deep golden yellow to red. It grows 40 to 60 feet at maturity.

Close up of purple beautyberry berriesPurple beautyberry is a shrub that is quite interesting. What's unusual about this plant is its striking berries. Small lilac flowers in summer become clusters of small, shiny violet berries arranged in clusters up and down each stem in early autumn. The berries remain attractive on the shrub well into winter. Fall foliage is reddish-pink. Whenever anyone seees this plant in my garden they always admire the bright-purple, gem-like berries and ask me "What is that plant?" It grows four feet high and wide.

Two of the more rare and hard-to-find perennials I grow in my garden are pink hardy begonia and white hardy begonia.

Pink hardy begonia is a bushy plant with light green foliage. The undersides of its angel-wing-shaped leaves are maroon with deep-red veins. It bears large clusters of pale-pink blooms from midsummer to frost. The flower clusters stand above the foliage and arch outward. It self sows readily, increasing the original planting. It grows 12 to 18 inches high and wide and is quite unique. It's one of the hardiest plants in my garden. It's growing in the coldest part of my garden and it comes back bigger and better every year. It grows well in shade to part sun.

White hardy begonia is even more rare than pink hardy begonia. It has the same light-green, angel-wing-shaped foliage with maroon undersides and deep-red veins. Its flowers are pure white and begin blooming in midsummer and continue to frost. Like pink hardy begonia, it self sows, increasing the original planting. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall and wide and thrives in shade to part sun.

African GardeniaAfrican gardenia is a rare, hard-to-find house plant I grow. It's an easy-to-grow relative of gardenia that blooms reliably in the home, blooming almost continuously all year long with no extra effort. It bears small, star-shaped flowers that are pink in bud and open creamy white. The flowers are carried in clusters all up and down its stems and even the smallest stem will have a few flowers on it. Their fragrance is wonderful, very similar to gardenia, albeit a little more subtle. The fragrance easily carries on the breeze, perfuming a room. It's a shrubby plant that looks similar to gardenia, but on a smaller scale. It reaches two feet high and wide at maturity. Not a fussy plant, African gardenia can be grown just about anywhere in the home - in sunny or shady windows, in cool or warm temperatures, and in low or high humidity.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Pruning Not Necessary on Japanese Stewartia"

Q. My question is how to trim a 10-foot-tall Japanese stewartia tree. The tree is very healthy. When it was small, I trimmed off any branches that were rubbing against each other. It is very healthy and full, but the bottom branches are hanging down. I feel it is okay to leave them, but my wife insists that the lowest branches should not be hanging down. Any suggestions on when and how to trim it, if needed? Thank you.

A. Japanese stewartia is a handsome tree with multi-season interest. In summer it bears white, camellia-like flowers. Its foliage turns orange and red in autumn and when it drops, it reveals interesting bark. The peeling bark displays beautiful patterns of orange, gray, and reddish brown that really stands out during winter. In spring, its new leaves emerge bronze then change to green. It grows 20 to 30 feet high at maturity.

I don't do any trimming to my Japanese stewartia and pruning isn't necessary for it to attain its handsome shape. If you like, you could do some selective pruning to help reveal its interesting bark, but otherwise I wouldn't do any trimming to it. If the bottom branches are touching the ground and making it hard to mow around it, put a ring of mulch underneath and around the drip edge of the tree so you don't have to mow underneath it.

Click here to read more about Japanese Stewartia and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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