Garden Guru: Ruby beauty in Gold Country
Growing up in the northwest corner of Ohio, one of my favorite shrub-like trees was one that happened to bloom in the cold months of winter …namely, witch-hazel.
Finding myself “transplanted” out onto the West Coast in a state that seems to possess almost every imaginable climate zone for growing, I was quickly drawn to a most colorful and showy shrub, Loropetalum chinense. Commonly known as the Chinese fringe flower, this finely textured evergreen shrub has a loose open form and will grow as high as 12 feet and 6 to 8 feet wide. Residents of El Dorado Hills will find this colorful shrub in many residential, corporate and park landscapes.
Two forms of Loropetalum chinense exist: a white to pale yellow flowering, green leaf variety and a pink-flowering variety with leaves varying from reddish-bronze when new to olive-green or burgundy when mature. Of course with most plants, the colors of the foliage and flowers often depend upon selection and growing conditions.
Loropetalum grows best in fertile, slightly acidic soil with good drainage in full sun for deepest foliage color and is hardy down to -3F. It is a popular ornamental plant, best known for its impressive clusters of flowers and deeply coloured foliage that may contain green, purple, red and copper tones.
Prolific blooms usually begin in late winter into spring and can continue sporadically throughout the summer. The shrub’s branches normally are formed in horizontal layers with a spreading habit. Young shrubs have greater spread than height and are densely branched. Some newer varieties have forms and growth habits that create an effective large-scale groundcover.
The El Dorado Hills Community Services District has been introducing this handsome shrub into many of our neighborhood landscapes and parks recently and they are performing quite well. One of the most popular cultivars that have been developed is Loropetalum chinense variety rubrum “Burgundy.”
The contrasting colors, interesting textures and bountiful blooms of the Loropetalum help enhance the community in a botanically beautiful manner.
Brent Dennis, a landscape architect and garden designer, is general manager of the El Dorado Hills Community Services District.