April Featured Plants

Dogwoods at Cheekwood

April Featured Plants

April is a gorgeous time of  year to spend in the gardens, with blooming tulips, budding dogwoods and pretty petunias, we can’t think of a better time of year to get out and enjoy spring’s arrival.

Check out this month’s featured plant list from the Cheekwood gardening team. Read our plant labels in the gardens to see if you can find each of these featured plants.

Burr Terrace Garden (Raised Armillary Bed)
Knotweed (pictured, right)
Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’
Although knotweed may cause nervous reactions for some gardeners, as the species form is known to be unruly, the cultivated ‘Red Dragon’ is sterile and therefore very well-behaved. Clump-forming rather than stoloniferous, this cultivar makes a wonderful component for mixed containers, cottage gardens, and front borders. ‘Red Dragon’ boasts beautiful, designer leaves of purple, green, and silver chevrons attached to wide red stems. Flowers are small and baby’s breath-like, persisting from mid-summer to fall. In climates with intense summer heat, plant in shade to part shade to prevent fading of the colorful foliage. Persicaria is extremely tolerant of many soil types and is hardy in zones 6-8.

Robinson Water Garden
White Ash (pictured, right)
Fraxinus americana
One of Cheekwood’s many handsome and native Fraxinus, this white ash is growing in the Robinson Family Water Garden near pond the first pond. Easily transplanted, it does best in moist, well-drained soils. Its flowers emerge in late March to early Spring. White Ash usually grows anywhere between 50-80′ tall, but it has been reported as tall as 124′! Because of its potentially giant size, this species is not recommended for homeowner use. It is, however, a suitable tree for parks and larger estates.  We would be remiss not to mention the threat of the emerald ash borer and the importance of its surveillance. Many wonderful resources abound on the subject, including The Emerald Ash Borer Information Network (http://www.emeraldashborer.info/about-eab.php). White Ash is hardy in zones 4-9.

Will’s Garden
Canadian Columbine (pictured, right)
Aquilegia canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’
On the Cheekwood grounds, one can find many cultivars of columbine blooming in mid-spring. One of these is a dwarf species, reaching a max height of 10-12”, called ‘Little Lanterns’. This derivative of the species canadensis possesses red bell-shaped flowers with slightly curved, short spurs, yellow cups and even brighter yellow stamens. Blooming for about for 6 weeks total (a bit longer if consistently deadheaded), ‘Little Lanterns shows less susceptibility to leaf miner damage than other species. Columbine makes the most impact when planted in groups and hummingbirds are attracted to the inviting, red cup-shaped blooms. A wide range of soil conditions will work for this plant, however it will perform best in evenly moist, well-drained substrates. Gardeners in southern climates will want to plant columbine in part shade. It is hardy in zones 3-8.

Turner Season’s Garden (Spring Room)
Saucer Magnolia
Magnolia Xsoulangeana ‘Alexandrina’
The saucer magnolia is widely thought to be the most planted of the deciduous types and perhaps the most recognizable of the spring flowering magnolias. Created in France in the 1820’s at Solange-Bodin GardenXsoulangena possesses smooth gray bark, rounded growth habit, and a potential height of up to 30 feet tall. ‘Alexandrina’ has light rose-purple outer tepals (“tepal” is the term used when the sepal, part of the perianth, is indistinguishable from the petal) and is one of the larger, earlier-flowering varieties. An excellent specimen plant, large cup-shaped flowers appear on bare stems in late March and early April. It performs most reliably in zones 5-9.

Carrell Dogwood Garden (Hydrangea Trail) and Woodland Sculpture Trail
Wakerobin, Toadshade (pictured, right)
Trillium spp. (T. recurvatum, T. cuneatum, T. grandiflorum, T. lancifolium, T. sessile, T. luteum, T. discolor, T. foetidissimum, , T. underwoodii, T. ludovicianum)
Cheekwood is home to 3 major Native Plant Collections: Tenneessee Native, Southeastern US Native, and Trillium, one of these most adored American wildflowers. East Asia and Eastern North America (concentrating in Southern Appalachia) are both (and the only!) native homes to Trillium. Of about 45 existing species, 10 of those inhabit Cheekwood and 7 of our trilliums are TN natives. These plants are grouped into two different groups based on the presence or lack of flower stalk: Wakerobins and Toadshades. Wakerobins exhibit solid green leaves while Toadshades have mottled foliage. Both possess whorls of 3 leaves. Flower size and color vary, as does the hardniness zone, among species.

Bradford Robertson Color Garden
Flowering Quince
Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Toyo-Nishiki’
Loaded with showy pink, red & white blooms all on the very same plant, it’s hard not to love this quince. ‘Toyo-Nishiki’ has incredible cold hardiness, drought tolerance, and more fire blight resistance than other varieties. This cultivar makes a fantastic hedge or barrier, reaching 6–10 feet high. Although shade tolerant, more sun equals more flowers for this plant. The fruit can be used to make jams or left on the plant to feed the birds. Flowering Quince is hardy in zones 4-8.

Photos by Andrew Bruckse | Cheekwood Grounds Supervisor
Andrew Bruckse Photography


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