Thursday, March 15, 2012

Name that plant

Someone asked me recently how to take care of a poinsettia fern.  I asked for a picture and received one. I honestly didn't have a clue about this plant.  Chances are, if it's a tropical or house plant, I don't know it.  It's embarrassing.  This happens more than I'd like.

I think it was well over 20 years ago that I was driving along Sandy Plains Road in Cobb County.  All of a sudden out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a group of light pink, spiky flowers.  What in the world?  It was too early for larkspur or foxgloves.  I was going too fast with cars behind me, so there was no way to slow down or even look in the rearview mirror.  Wow.  I would like to have those flowers, I said to myself.

It was several years later when I learned what I had seen.  I found out when a woman brought a forced branch to the Southeastern Flower Show.  Dwarf flowering almond - Prunus glandulosa.  This isn't something I knew about growing up, but later I learned that Margaret Moseley had grown both the white and pink double forms for years.

A couple of years ago, I received a call from an elderly woman.  I can't remember how she had my phone number, but she wanted to see if I could tell her what she had in her yard.  When she said it had three foot tall, fluffy pink spiky flowers, sort of like a peach tree would have, I knew instantly what she was talking about.  Again, the dwarf flowering almond.

The above plant was given to me about 15 years ago by a woman in Athens, Georgia.  A professor at the University of Georgia who wrote a book on vernacular gardens had referred me to this gardener, and I was charmed by her friendliness and by her love of flowers.  I cherish the plant, even though it is in bloom a short time.

I need to move the shrub.  It is crowded in with a gardenia I rooted, and both deserve a better home.  I think I have a place where I can plant both shrubs and have the evergreen back up the deciduous shrub.

Dwarf flowering almond is probably more of a passalong plant than one you'd find in nurseries, but I still take joy in the fluffy pink flowers.  My woody plant guru, Dr. Michael A. Dirr, doesn't think much of the plant and calls it a "bargain basement shrub of many discount stores" and adds that it appears "distraught and alone in summer, fall and winter." This is never going to be a popular plant, but for at least a week in March, I'm glad I have it in my yard.


  1. It will bloom it's pretty head off for you in the sun. And it's an okay plant when not in bloom.

  2. I love the pink variety because it is an old time 'grandmother plant' in the north where I grew up and was introduced to gardening as a child. I have a pink and a white. It is like many flowering shrubs, pretty when it is blooming. So just plant it where it can be shy after it blooms and something else that is beautiful in the summer can take the focus away from it.

  3. I like the flowering almond but the double flowering plum puts on an even greater show. I agree with Marsha. If planted where its spring show can be appreciated and then fade into the background, using perennials to take over the show, it can truly be appreciated for its beauty and serve as a great backdrop to other showstoppers during the late spring and summer.