Named for a Massachusetts nurseryman, and administered by the
Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts, the Cary
Award is given to several landscape plants 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. Over its 21 year history, 58 woody trees, shrubs and
vines have been chosen.
Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) and
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) are the Cary
winners for 2018. This white cedar is an elegant evergreen tree,
native to the eastern seaboard states where it often is found in
moist soils (but it will grow fine in average soils). Foliage is
generally blue-green, but may be plum colored in some cultivars
(cultivated varieties). Depending on cultivar, final heights may
reach 20 feet as with Blue Rock, up to 50 feet high for the
species (with 30 feet or more width). This evergreen needs full
sun, and is hardy to USDA zone 4 (average minus 20 to minus 30
degree minimum in winter).
Bottlebrush buckeye is a large shrub, native to the southeastern
states but hardy into USDA zone 5 and the warmer parts of zone 4.
It reaches 12 feet high and spreads at least 12 feet or more
wide. The showy panicles of white flowers are 12 inches long, and
in July cover the shrub in a cloud of white. It is attractive to
hummingbirds and various types of bees. Although it prefers moist
soils, it will tolerate wet to dry soils, once established. Use
it along woodland edges and in shrub borders.
Gold Cone juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Gold Cone’) and
fragrant or Korean abelia (Abelia mosanensis) were the Cary
winners for 2017. Gold Cone juniper makes a tight spire shape,
reaching eight to 10 feet tall yet only 18 to 20 inches wide. Its
new growth in spring is bright yellow green, turning to soft green
in summer. It needs full sun, and is quite hardy (USDA zone 3 or
an average annual minimum of minus 30 degrees or lower).
Discovered in New Zealand, it was introduced by a German nursery
Korean abelia has rosy pink flowers in late spring to early
summer. The trumpet shape of the small flowers, held in clusters,
is attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Like other abelia,
flowers have a sweet and spicy fragrance yet, unlike others in
this genus, this species is hardy to USDA zone 4. It will reach
four to six feet high and wide and tolerates part shade and dry
soils (once established). This species is named for the south
Korean town of Mosan.
Two trees were Cary winners in 2016. The dawn redwood (Metasequoia
glyptostroboides) has, what I think, is one of most fun
scientific names to say (me-ta-se-QUOY-ah
glyp-toe-stroe-BOY-dees). It has a fascinating history too, being
found in fossil records dating back 50 to 100 million years ago.
It was thought extinct, until found in the 1940’s in China. An
expedition from the Arnold Arboretum in Boston collected seeds,
distributing them to botanic gardens worldwide. It is now found
more commonly in the nursery trade than the wild, where it is
still rather rare.
The dawn redwood is a rapid grower, reaching 100 feet tall with a
pyramidal shape. Its leaves are needles which are not evergreen,
emerging bright green in spring, turning green in summer then
rusty orange in fall before falling off. It needs full sun,
tolerates most soil types, and is hardy to USDA zone 4.
The Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora) ‘Glauca’
cultivar is more accurately a range of variations in the Glauca
Group, similar to the eastern white pine. It differs from the
latter in being shorter (25 to 40 feet eventually, and the same
width), slower growing and so less prone to winter and wind
damage, with more picturesque shape, hardy to USDA zone 4, and
this cultivar has very silvery blue needles. It prefers
well-drained soils, but tolerates most soil types when
established. Grow this as a specimen tree, in full sun.
European beech (Fagus sylvatica) are very choice trees for
large landscapes, but the cultivar ‘Rohan Obelisk’ is a
purple-leaved, very narrow upright form. This 2015 Cary winner
eventually reaches 50 feet tall but only 10 to 15 feet wide. You
may see it listed to USDA zone 4, but generally it is hardy only
to the warmer zone 5 similar to most related species and
cultivars. It prefers a moist, well-drained soil in full sun, but
will tolerate part shade. In winter, its smooth gray bark—similar
to other beeches—is quite attractive.
The other 2015 Cary winning plant was a less common shrub, but
one deserving wider usage—Japanese clethra (Clethra barbinervis).
Unlike the lower, spreading native sweet peppeprbush (Clethra
alnifolia), this one grows into a large shrub or small tree
to 20 feet tall. In late summer, it produces drooping clusters of
flowers, lightly-scented, and which are attractive to
pollinators. The green leaves turn bright red, yellow and orange
in fall. In winter, the copper bark provides visual interest.
Hardy to USDA zone 5, this plant prefers a good soil in full sun
to part shade.
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