Sunday, April 12, 2009

X Chitalpa tashkentensis 'Morning Cloud'

Our new chitalpa

We finally bought that chitalpa at what is, from a tree-planting-in-Central-Texas perspective, more or less the 11th hour for 2009. I'd called around town 3 times before and no one had them in stock except Shoal Creek, for $58, which was a bit rich for my blood. Finally this past Friday--after another fruitless round of calling and a trip to Shed's, which promised me a chitalpa over the phone but only actually had a catalpa--I bit the bullet and went to SC. And even they only had one left in stock, although it was fortunately a good specimen.

A Rant
I had never thought chitalpas were all that rare, but when I'd ask for them, most nursery workers would say, "a what?" and "How do spell that?" or "Do you mean catalpa?" Very depressing. I always tell people to buy their plants at local nurseries because they (a) take better care of their inventory, (b) know what's actually adapted to the area, and (c) are much more knowledgeable than Lowe's/Home Depot/(God forbid) Wal-mart. (a) still holds. I was at Lowe's today, where they had slightly reduced the price on some mostly dead parlor palms that no one had apparently ever bothered to water--and that is absolutely characteristic. (b) and (c) though... I'm starting to wonder. I think it might be more fair to say that local nurseries are more likely to carry plants that are suitable to our climate. Sometimes they also carry fuschias and filberts. And while it's still true to say that they know more than big box employees, that particular bar is awfully low. Some local nursery workers are real experts--others, really, really not.

Incidentally, chitalpa (X Chitalpa tashkentensis) is an intergeneric hybrid of the extremely common desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) and Catalpa bignoniodes. I'd have been happy with one of those nice burgundy desert willows, but Matt finds them intolerably weedy. I don't know why the specific epithet is "tashkentensis"... okay, just googled--so named because it was hybridized in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. How about that?

Anyway, I bought the little fella--who, to be fair about the price, is a good 6' or more tall--and popped him in the ground today with some disreputable "cow manure" from Lowe's (only folks open on Easter) and a generous coat of mulch. It's a bit skinny for the moment, but I'm hoping it will fill out and nicely bracket the entire western side of the house.

The cultivar is not, Matt tells me, the one most commonly commercially available, 'Pink Dawn,' but is rather the less well known 'Morning Cloud.' We got lucky there, I think, as Pink Dawn is (surprise!) baby pink, while 'Morning Cloud' is white with maroon streaks. I'm not a huge fan of baby pink, so this is a good thing. And some websites say that MC is less susceptible to powdery mildew.

I also bought a Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) for the herb garden, which is currently a pretty single-minded celebration of the rosemary (i.e., the only herb that hasn't died on us). Spanish lavender is supposed to be one of the toughest lavenders around, but they resemble rosemary in that they reach their breaking point rather abruptly, and once they're good and pissy, there's almost no recalling them to health. This worries me a little--I like plants that give you infinite second chances, like basil and spathephyllum.

Project Updates
We still have to do the fascia on the east side of the house, but progress has been made on the doors. I think we've got most of the paint out of the cracks of Flossie, Edith, and Poindexter. They still need to be sanded, and I think some spots may need another round of paint remover, but we did a big push last week and are now over the hump. Hopefully, we'll have Javier the Carpenter install them in June.

I also RoundUp'd today. Partly because some of the more stubborn weeds are having the temerity to poke their little heads through the 2 feet of expensive, deluxe mulch we laid down in the shade garden--and that's not on, as the British so adorably say--and partly in tribute to Mom's impending curtain-making visit. I'm ambivalent about RoundUp, which had damaged some of our roses (most notably 'Ferdinand Pichard') in the past (see example). To try to reduce unwanted drift this time, I cut the bottom out of one of our kitty litter buckets, placed it over the intended target, and then sprayed, hopefully shielding the nearby good plants.

Also, I've been working on installing the garden spotlights Mom & Dad gave us. We've got all the fixtures assembled and placed, and we (Matt) tunneled under the front sidewalk and installed a pipe to run the cable from one bed to the other, but we had to add on to the cable, and nothing downstream of the connection between the cables seems to be working. One half of the front yard is all illuminated and fancy looking, and the other half is black as Tartarus. Bother.


Anonymous said...

I have two Desert Willows that I am Loving. Cultivar "Bubba" which If I recall last years research; to be a pod-free plant, but it sure is bursting with magenta flowers right now. *Goooooregeous* Just wondering why Matt thinks they are ""weedy"" ????

Also wondering how you like the Chitalpa. I want to try some of those sterile cuckoos, but not really a fan of Pink ~or~ White flowers. But, my delight at seeing morning hummingbirds can override my disdain for color of petals...

Elgin_house said...

Hi KustomKasey--So far, so good on the chitalpa. It's only about 6 feet tall and was planted just this spring, yet it keeps putting out little flushes of flowers, which is pretty remarkable, especially since we're in the midst of an odious drought (it does get supplemental water). I haven't spotted any hummingbirds by it, but it's still a pretty small tree, and we don't have in general a hummingbird-enticing landscape (yet).

I envy you your "Bubba"--those magenta DW's are so pretty! I _suspect_ that it's their somewhat blowsy, thin-limbed structure that Matt objects to. It is a more informal-looking tree than the Chitalpa, you know?

Patti said...

Hi ~ we live in Lake Havasu City, AZ. A very dry climate and have both Desert Willow (burgandy) and a new Chitalpa (Pink Dawn) I love my Desert Willow and don't find it to be weedy or maybe I don't comprehend "weedy" Good luck with yours. Love your house blog idea.

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