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A Look Back To Two Items About Which I Wrote Earlier This Year
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale

email: art@artdrysdale.com

Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at http://www.artdrysdale.com


January 4, 2015



Above, Fried Egg Plant (Polyspora axillaris) in bud; and a close-up of the flowers. Below, Coprosma Pina Colada; and Coprosma Tequila Sunrise in their fall colours.
Author photos.




 



 

On March 30th last year I wrote about a very unusual plant known as the Fried Egg Plant. I’ll repeat what I wrote back in March, and then add some added comment.

“One thing I seldom do is write about a plant or plants which I have neither seen, nor cannot find much information about in popular literature (translation these days: on the Worldwide Web!). But I am going to do that this week.

“The plant has both a very interesting name, Fried Egg Plant, and an interesting look as you will be able to see from the accompanying photos. The 10 cm (4”) flowers have a rich yellow centre, complete with yellow stamens, which are surrounded by bright white petals, and all of this happens in October or November in mild climates. The only recommendations I’ve seen as regards hardiness is that it is cold hardy to zones 8 – 10, and perhaps in 7b. That just about describes us to a tee here on Vancouver Island. But, I have been unsuccessful in finding anyone who either knows it, or more importantly, who grows it.

“This plant is actually a small evergreen tree that grows to 4.5 m (15’). This tree, like its close relatives the Camellias, is a member of the Theaceae (Tea) family and has similar likes to those of Camellias generally—acid soil that is fertile and well drained. It prefers part sun/part shade. The flowers somewhat resemble the (smaller) flowers of the Camellia sasanqua and some landscape people like to plant some of those early-flowering Camellias in adjacent areas. Some critics say the tree is too messy for cities because the large flowers (which truly do resemble fried eggs) are messy on pavements. The easy way around that problem is to plant one in the centre of a lawn where the fallen flowers virtually always land face-side up thus providing an additional decorative element, at a time of year when there are few trees in flower.

“Some people who have resided/visited extensively in warm climates such as Savannah, Georgia (where this tree can be seen along the Judge Arthur Solomon Camellia Trail), Florida, and particularly in the warm parts of Australia may have seen this unusual tree in bloom. The bloom, as mentioned, is best in October and November, and in the warmer climates is attractive to many types of butterflies, including sulphurs and skippers who love to feed off the flowers.

“This plant has gone through several name changes by the botanists, but the most recent is Polyspora axillaris. Prior to this name, it was commonly known as Gordonia axillaris, and even earlier, it was called Franklinia axillaris. Now, the single species in the Franklinia genus is commonly called the Franklin tree, known botanically as Franklinia alatamaha.

“If you happen to be successful in finding a Fried Egg Tree, please do let me know where, and just what luck you have (had) in growing it.”

That was March 30th last year. Subsequently I received the following note from Jim Glassford who has two properties out here, specifically on Galliano Island and at Nanoose Bay just a few kilometres south of us here on Vancouver Island.

Here is what Jim said back late last May: “You asked if anyone had one of these plants. We do have one of these plants growing on our property on Galiano Island. It is a prolific bloomer and is just starting to bloom now. We have had it about 15 years and it is perhaps 4 meters tall. It is on a sunny dry bank about 50 feet from the ocean and it seems to need little water during the summer months. It tolerates our winters well and does not suffer any die back. I see no obvious reason why it would not grow well in your area as well. We are trying to figure out the best way to propagate it here as we would like to do so for our other property in Nanoose Bay. Hope that helps.”

* * *

“This article is really just for those gardeners who consider themselves “zone-pushers”—mainly because the plants I am writing about likely are only hardy in the mildest parts of Canada, if there!

“The story actually started in early May 2014 when I happened to be in the local Costco, and decided to visit their outdoor ‘garden centre area’. There I saw a large collection of diverse plants and to their credit they actually had the tomato plants displayed indoors so they would not be exposed to the cold weather which seems to continue to plague us!

“On one shelf outdoors were some extraordinarily shiny-foliaged plants identified as Coprosma. There were two slightly varying cultivars, the first identified as Coprosma repens ‘Tequila Sunrise’ (with foliage not unlike the leaves of Euonymus fortunei) and the second, with slightly smaller foliage (somewhat like that of Buxus), Coprosma repens ‘Pina Colada’. Both of these also bore the common name Mirror Plant. That name obviously came from the highly glossy foliage of the plants

Coprosma originates in New Zealand and depending on whose Website you check, they are hardy either in U.S.D.A. zones 8 to 11, or 9 to 11. That is where the zone pushing comes in!

Coprosma have stunning foliage that changes from lime green and yellow in the spring to sunset orange and burgundy as the weather cools. Where hardy, the stunning shiny sunset orange and burgundy remain on the plant all winter. My use of “where hardy” is deliberate. In doing some research on these plants I could find no other nursery or garden centre that has them in stock here. I did talk to a marketing chief in San Diego California, from whence many of these originate, who said that provided our coldest winter temperatures did not drop below -6o C (21o F), they likely would survive if protected from the wind.

“The other cultivar (Coprosma repens ‘Pina Colada’) had an additional label supplied by a U.S. wholesale nursery (Village Nurseries) which has this to say about the plant’s use in cold climates. ‘To help this plant survive winters outside; the best protection is a layered approach of mulch and a physical barrier. Avoid non-porous plastics that can trap excess moisture inside. Instead use burlap, heavy duty paper bags or for very treasured plants, Styrofoam cones. With the burlap approach, stuff the inside of the burlap cover with shredded leaf mulch, pine boughs or any light and airy organic mulch. Enclose above ground plant stems with this system, tuck in and tie down to resist winter’s winds.

“Also on the same label: ‘Robust enough for landscape use, tender enough for long-lived as a house plant.’

“The plants in Costco came in 10-gallon pots, and they can apparently be expected to grow to a height and width of 61 to 91 cm (24 to 36”) in the first few years. They will grow either in full sun or part shade.

“Even though I have some doubts about just how hardy these beautiful plants are, I decided to buy one of each. At this point I do not know whether I’ll bring the plants indoors for the winter, or leave them outdoors, well protected. It might just be that I’ll try leaving one protected outdoors while bringing the other one indoors. I’ll be reporting on whatever develops as the seasons move along.”

Since I wrote all of that, we decided to bring them both inside and currently they are doing fine. More on them in the spring.

   

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