Aronia melanocarpa

Aronia melanocarpa loaded with berries Aronia melanocarpa                     Family: Rosaceae
(ah-ROE-nee-ah  mel-an-oh-KAR-pah)

Common name: black chokeberries
Zone: 3 – 8 
Height: 3-6 ft (0.9-1.8 m)   Spread: 6-10 ft (1.8-3 m)
Aspect: full sun; partial shade
Soil: average; well-draining
Water: moderate     

Description: A medium-sized, deciduous shrub with a fairly low, spreading growth habit. The dark green, glossy leaves are obovate in shape with a rounded tip. Colour turns a wonderful purplish-red in autumn. Clusters of 5-petaled white flowers open for a short bloom period in May, followed by dark, round, edible berries in autumn. Berries first appear dark purple, maturing to black when fully ripe.


Special Notes: Native to North America, primarily the area around the Great Lakes in Canada and the United States. Once used by the native peoples as a meat preservative in preparing pemmican. More recently, it has been discovered aronia berries have wonderful health benefits. Besides being saturated with natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-diabetic qualities, the berries are rich in anthocyanins and polyphenols…which protect the urinary tract, stimulate the circulation and strengthen the heart. Ongoing studies are showing black chokeberries also contain compounds helpful in fighting certain cancers and heart disease. There is also ongoing research on its benefits for memory loss and cognitive deterioration.

Aronia melanocarpa has few insect or disease problems, although there is some susceptibility to leaf spots…merely a cosmetic problem. Twig and/or fruit blight could also be a slight problem.


In our Zone 7a garden: Our Aronia shrub sits at the corner of the raised bed by the steps leading up to the pond…and beyond. It was relocated to this location in 2013 after being deemed unsuitable in the first spot John placed it when the plant was purchased in 2011. I only mention this so you have some understanding its current size of about 3 feet (0.9 m) tall and roughly 5 feet (1.5 m) wide may not be its final stature. However, this shrub does lend itself to being kept in check through some judicious pruning.

Aronia melanocarpa berriesThis past fall (2016), I managed to beat the birds to the berries. (Warning: you must be quick! As soon as the birds…mainly robins in our garden…pronounce the berries are finally ripe enough to eat, the entire shrub is harvested in two days…three at the very outside.) I froze all of this year’s harvest in batches on a waxpaper-lined cookie sheet and transferred the frozen berries into freezer bags for later use in smoothies. Delicious.


Posted on December 17, 2016


Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’

Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’  
(loo-KOTH-o-ee  fon-ta-nee-zee-AH-na)
Family: Ericaceae

Common name: Rainbow leucothoe, Girard’s rainbow, rainbow fetterbush, dog hobble, drooping leucothoe
Zone: 5 – 8 
Height: 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5 m) Spread: 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m)
Aspect: partial shade; full shade
Soil: humus-rich; well-draining
Water: moderate   

Description: An evergreen shrub with cascading form and slow growth rate. Bright green, leathery, lanceolate-shaped leaves are splashed with varying degrees of white and pink. Fall foliage colours are a rainbow of deep burgundy, bright red, oranges, and yellows. White flowers are displayed in drooping clusters in spring.


Special Notes: The species, Leucothoe fontanesiana, is native to the eastern part of North America. This particular cultivar was discovered as a seedling at the Hillier Nurseries in England.

While most references state leucothoe should be planted in at least partial shade, some have confessed to giving it full sun. The amount of sun this shrub receives daily will directly impact on how much variable colour will develop on the leaves. The more sun, the more colour. However, it has been stated, extended direct sun can scorch, thus damaging the leaves.


Caution: Leaves and flower nectar are highly toxic if ingested. Harmful to children, pets, horses, and especially goats.


In our Zone 7a garden: Our leucothoe shrub is planted along the edge of the driveway, in some very tough soil. It is part of a delightful mass planting of admirable shrubs (Kerria japonica, oakleaf hydrangea, Skimmia japonica, Leucothoe, Viburnum davidii) which have now all grown together. All but the kerria are evergreen, and because of the mass overlapping of branches, it is difficult to get much amendment material underneath, although we do try. Another factor in that bed are roots from two large maple trees nearby.

I mention all of this because every resource claimed Leucothoe fontanesiana prefers moist, humus-rich, well-draining soil. They also claim this shrub does not tolerate drought. Well…in our garden, this shrub is not planted in humus-rich soil and it does not get much moisture…competing as it does with trees and other mature shrubs. And yet, it thrives beautifully.

If I was to change one thing about its placement, it would be to give it more sun. Mine is sited in almost complete shade…getting only a little sun late in the day. And this impacts on the colour variation in its leaves. Mine are mostly green with a bit of white. I have to wait until autumn to get the beautiful rainbow display.

As for its toxicity…while I do not doubt the warnings I read concerning this shrub, our grandchildren and two dogs have never attempted to pick the leaves or chewed on them. But then, I have taught the kids they are not to put anything in their mouths without first asking Grandma if it is edible. And all of our dogs have been trained not to chew on our plants, or dig holes in the beds. Goats, indeed, would be another matter.


Posted on September 12, 2016


Hydrangea paniculata ‘Kyushu’

Hydrangea paniculata 'Kyushu'
Hydrangea paniculata 
‘Kyushu’       Family:
(hy-DRAIN-jah  pah-nik-yew-LAY-tah)

Common name:
 paniculate hydrangea ‘Kyushu’
Zone: 5 – 9 
Height: 8 – 10 ft (2.5-3 m)   Spread: 3 – 5 ft (1-1.5 m)
Aspect: full sun; partial shade
Soil: average; well-draining
Water: moderate

Hydrangea paniculata 'Kyushu' - leavesDescription: A deciduous shrub with an upright form and moderate growth rate. Dark green, ovate-shaped leaves are slightly glossy. Branches are tipped with slender, conical-shaped, flower-heads made up of a multitude of smaller white florets. Bloom period from early July through to end of September. Flowers are sterile.


Special Notes: Native to Kyushu, Japan, softwood cuttings were collected in 1926 by renowned ornithologist, plant collector, and gardener, Captain Collingwood Ingram. These cuttings were given to an arboretum in Belgium for growing on and eventual distribution.

Hydrangea 'Kyushu' - flowers at season endWith a moderate growth rate of five to ten years, this shrub does not quickly out-grow its placement in the garden. Rather, because of available space next to this plant, the gardener is in danger of planting something too close, which must be subsequently re-located in a few short years.

Of special note are the lovely conical-shaped white flowers with their long bloom period. An added feature is the white colour is not marred by turning brown as the flower dies back. 


In our Zone 7a garden: This shrub has truly thrived in full, hot sun all summer long. Granted, we made sure the plant was watered regularly when it was first introduced into our landscape. But once established with a good root system, the shrub has been purely delightful for the floral display it gives over a very long period…with just a minimum of water every week.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Kyushu' & Lunaria annua seed pods


Posted on September 10, 2016




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