University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
DISTINCTIVE TREE AND SHRUB WINNERS FOR
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Distinctive new, or underutilized, trees and shrubs suited for New England
are given the Cary Award. There have been five winners over the last
couple of years.
Named for a Massachusetts nurseryman, and administered by the Tower Hill
Botanic Garden, this award is given to several winners each year as judged
by a panel of professionals. These are either new plant introductions,
or others that aren't new but deserve wider use in landscapes. Generally
trees and shrubs are chosen, but in 2014 the three winners were vines.
Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ is one of the winning vines for 2014, and is a
cross among two species (C. crispa x C. viticella). It was
chosen for its long blooming through most of the summer, with dainty and
small, lightly fragrant bell-shaped lavender flowers with recurved
tips. Elizabeth “Betty” Corning was a plantswoman of note, who found
this in a neighbor’s garden in Albany, New York in 1932 and saw that it was
introduced to nurseries.
Since this clematis blooms on new wood or growth, a good time to prune and
not affect flowering that season would be late winter or early spring. Vines
grow 6 to 8 feet high, so need adequate support. As with most
clematis, they like cool roots, so place where the lower quarter or so of
the plant will be in the shade. A good feature of this plant is that it is
resistant to the clematis wilt disease. It will grow into zone 4 in
the north (-20 to -30 degrees F).
Another winning vine for 2014, and worth considering for your garden, is the
hardy Arctic Beauty kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta). As its name
indicates, it is quite hardy to zone 3 (-30 to -40 degrees F), being a
native of eastern Russia. The small, fragrant spring white flowers are
hidden among the leaves. The bark is a beautiful cinnamon color and
flaking. As this vine is vigorous, reaching 10 to 20 feet, give it
sturdy support in either sun or part shade.
This vine comes in male and female plants, the former often more colorful
with new leaves in spring splattered with cream, pink, and white among the
green. Leaves turn to all green later in summer. ‘Pasha’ is a male
cultivar (cultivated variety) of the hardy kiwi, grown for its brilliant
foliage and to pollinate female vines for their edible fruit.
‘September Sun’ is a common female cultivar, yielding 10 or more pounds of
fruit per mature plant. It may take two years for vines to start
bearing. Fruit begin ripening in August, are less than an inch long,
and are eaten like grapes.
The third Cary Award vine winner for 2014 is the American wisteria (Wisteria
frutescens). This is a species native to southern states in
North America, but which will grow to zone 5 (-10 to -20 degrees F).
The purple and white flower clusters (“racemes”), drooping and to 6-inches
long, appear in May and June. The pea-like individual flowers have a
light, sweet fragrance. Vines grow 10 or more feet a year, reaching up
to 30 feet when mature. Prune this if needed right after
flowering. Two cultivars you may find are ‘Amethyst Falls’ or the
There were two tree winners of the Cary Award in 2013. Veitch fir (Abies
veitchii) is another quite hardy choice for northern gardens, good
into zone 3. Needles are dark green above, and with a showy white band
below. It grows slowly, reaching 35 to 40 feet high in as many years,
and with a pyramidal shape. Eventually, and in its native habitat, it may
reach 75 feet tall. It is native to central and southern Japan, and is
named after a famous plant explorer of Japan’s native plants in the
1800’s. Veitch fir grows in evenly moist soils, in sun or part
shade. The dense growth provides nesting sites and protection for
The other tree winner for 2013 was the threadleaf falsecypress or threadleaf
Sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera’). This is another
introduction from Japan, first grown in this country in 1861. It is
hardy in all but the coldest areas, growing into zone 4. It’s
drooping, stringy branches give it the threadleaf name. In 10 to 15
years it can form a dense mound 6 to 8 feet high, up to 15 feet when mature,
making it more a shrub than tree. It prefers moist but well-drained
soils, in full sun or part shade. Part shade is best in warmer
This makes a nice accent or specimen plant in landscapes, as does the even
more showy golden-yellow cultivar ‘Filifera Aurea’. The latter
may reach up to 20 feet high. There are a few other similar cultivars
of golden falsecypress, such as the compact ‘Golden Mop’ or ‘Lemon
Yellow’. ‘Sungold’ is in between in height, reaching 5 to 6 feet tall.
For more ideas on great trees, shrubs, and vines for New England
gardens, visit the past winners at the Cary Award website (www.caryaward.com/index.html).
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