Hybrid BluebeardBotanical name: Caryopteris...


October 05, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher

Hybrid Bluebeard

Botanical name: Caryopteris Clandonensis

Pronunciation: ka-ree-OP-ter-is

Family: Verbenaceae (Verbena)

Origin: China, Japan, Mongolia

Class: Shrub

Display period: August to frost

Height: 2 1/2 to 3 feet

Environment: Sun Looking in a garden center late last summer for an outdoor plant to finish out the season in a 14-inch container whose previous contents had died, I spied a specimen of Caryopteris Blue Knight. What struck me about the plant was the vividness of the lavender-colored flowers and their arrangement in bands of tiny clusters ringing the length of the woody stems. Little did I realize I was bringing home a treasure.

By early summer this year, the plant had reached full size, and although the species' usual practice, so I'm told, is to begin blooming in August, my specimen flowered ahead of schedule by a month or more. But this summer was not an ordinary one. The prolonged heat and drought played havoc with the season. Plants normally flowering in August were already winding down by then. So whether my plant would still turn in the same performance under normal conditions remains to be seen.

Caryopteris is a feast for the eyes. When lit by the sun (and also at dusk) it takes on an almost metallic sheen. Bumblebees seem to love it as much as I do.

The shrub acquired its name from the Greek terms "karyon," for nut, and "pteron," meaning wing, a reference to the plant's fruits, which are winged. It originated as a chance hybrid in 1930 in an English garden at Clandon, near Guildford. The parents were C. incana (known as Blue Mist spirea in the nursery trace, although the shrub is not a spirea) and C. mongholica. Besides Dark

Knight, superior varieties include Kew Blue and Heavenly Blue. Longwood Blue, developed by Longwood Gardens, is viewed as especially choice.

Caryopteris makes a wonderful low formal hedge, its height also suits its use as a perennial border.

A harsh winter may kill caryopteris to the ground. Its roots, however, should survive and bloom should occur as usual. Because plants blossom on new wood, they are pruned in the spring. Removal of old stems encourages regrowth.

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