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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Conifers, Prunus padus, Styrax, Laburnum, Davidia, Ribes, Larix, Chamaecyparis, Picea, Tsuga, Cedrus, Fagus, Betula, Flowering trees, Pinus, Ericaceae (Heath family)

Are there any lists of shrubs/small trees that are best viewed from below, such as Styrax or Halesia?


While there are no lists of shrubs/small trees best viewed from below, there is a list of trees with weeping habits in The Pacific Northwest Gardener's Book of Lists (Ray and Jan McNeilan, 1997). Many genera of conifers - Cedrus (cedar), Chamaecyparis (cypress), Larix (larch), Picea (spruce), Pinus (pine), and Tsuga (hemlock) - have weeping forms, often indicated by a variety name 'Pendula' or 'Pendulum'. There are weeping birches (Betula), beeches (Fagus), and cherries (Prunus), too.

You are correct about Styrax and Halesia. Additionally, I ran across a few individual species that may be of interest to you as I researched this question:
--Davidia involucrata
--Laburnum anagyroides
--flowering currants, Ribes spp.
--flowering cherry trees, particularly Prunus padus
--various plants in the Ericaceae family have bell-shaped flowers that hang on the underside of the stem.

I would add that any tree which has a naturally graceful branching pattern and/or delicately shaped foliage (such as Japanese maples) would be pleasant to view from below, as well as from other angles.

Date 2017-05-11
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Larix, Dwarf conifers and shrubs

I have purchased a Larix laricina 'Blue Sparkler.' It appears to be a dwarf larch but I can't find any information about it. Could you point me toward a reference?


According to an article by Kathryn Lund Johnson in The American Gardener, volume 87, no. 6. (2008) entitled "Wicked and wonderful: witches' brooms," Larix laricina 'Blue Sparkler' is a witches' broom cultivar. It was introduced in 1993, and is a dwarf deciduous larch with "a dense habit that is reminiscent of miniature fireworks. Its blue green needles turn gold in autumn, then drop. In 10 years, it can grow three feet high and two-and-a-half feet wide."

Witches' brooms are a type of deformity that can occur for a number of reasons, according to the article, including dwarf mistletoes, fungi, viruses, bacteria, and aphids. Witches' brooms on conifers are used as a source for propagating new cultivars. The propagator takes a cutting from the broom, and this 'scion' is "either rooted directly or grafted to young conifers that serve as the 'understock.' When grafting, the wound is given a year to heal. The understock is then removed and a new plant stands in its place." This method was pioneered by Sidney Waxman, a professor of plant science at University of Connecticut, Storrs. He is responsible for developing the 'Blue Sparkler' tamarack you are growing.

Iowa State University has a page of information about the phenomenon of witches' brooms.

Date 2018-03-01
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August 01 2017 12:36:01