The Buzz

Sweden in Memphis! by Wendy Robson

Change is in the air! While the familiar signs of spring are emerging all around us, the horticulture staff at the Memphis Botanic Garden has prepared perhaps the earliest welcome mat ever for Memphis in May’s featured country, Sweden, by transforming the front of our Visitor Center into a smorgasboard of Swedish-like botanicals. With a bold nod to the mixed forests of fir, pine, and birch, which dominate 65% of Sweden, our bed features Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Pica glauca ‘Conica’), Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thumbergi  ‘Red Janone’ ) and Himalayan Birch (Betula utiss var. Jacquemanti).

Above the treeless elevations of northern Sweden, with their heaths, marshes and boulders, Alpine flora, including dwarf birch, willow, and  terrestrial orchids, can be found. Our pseudo-alpine meadow features Alpine Squill (Scilla bifolia), Snake Head Lilly (Fritillaria meleagris), Lungwort (Pulminaria longifolia), European Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris), Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) and Dwarf River Birch (Betula nigra ‘Little King’.) If your head is spinning from the inclusion of so many botanical plant names, you have none other to blame than the father of binomial nomenclature (scientific plant names), the eminent botanist, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778); himself a Swede.


Indeed, although the mission of Memphis Botanic Garden is to provide an "exemplary regional center for horticultural and environmental enrichment,” one of our auxiliary objectives is to evaluate new plants, or plants not indigenous to this area, for the public. At the end of May, when blooms are spent, most of the plants in this front bed will be removed and evaluated. Trees that are “heeled in” (not intended to be planted permanently) will be removed and used elsewhere on the property. Some of the plants that we consider suitable for the Memphis area will be available during our fall 2013 Plant Sale. Spring-blooming bulbs will be replaced with summer-blooming bulbs, annuals, and perennials, for yet another season of interest and enjoyment. (Plants deemed not suitable will be sent to the Sami for reindeer fodder.)
Another change that you may not have noticed (if you are not a year-round visitor) is an increase in the number of late winter/early spring blooming plants that have been added to the Garden’s collection. These would include the many new Witch Hazel cultivars (Hamamelis x intermedia) which have been flowering since late January in a wide variety of color, ranging from pale yellow to deep crimson, Fragrant Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), and Chinese Paperbush with its unusual umbrella-shaped flowers, which can be found in front of the Visitor Center (pots) and at My Big Backyard.

We have also greatly expanded our collection of Dogwoods, Redbuds, and Azaleas, many occurring in less formal plantings and blended together for waves of color along the Azalea trail.  All of these provide exciting new options for plants that may have been overlooked by the homeowner, PLUS an excuse to visit the Garden more frequently!

 -Wendy Robson, Horticulturist, Memphis Botanic Garden

Posted by wendy robson at 12:55 PM


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