My home garden is in Monroe, Ohio. Officially in USDA hardiness zone 6a, we still, however briefly, have hit zone 5a lows in winters not to distantly past. The soil in my immediate vicinity is Eden silty clay. In many local developments, the good stuff has been scraped away and sold off as topsoil to some other poor schmuck who also had THEIR upper soil horizons scraped away. Whatever we had upon our arrival has been amended with horse manure, coir, and compost. There is no bed in my yard that couldn’t have been amended some more.

26 March 2013

Lindera, bacon, or both?

What's better than being married to someone who risks losing a hand to save you the last two slices of bacon from the mouths of ravenous teenagers, you ask?  (Editor's (wife) note:  NOTHING)

Growing Lindera benzoin (spicebush), one of the earliest shrubs (beaten out, here, by witchhazels) to bloom every year, that's what! 

Lindera benzoin (spicebush).
Okay, perhaps that is a little over the top. I get that not everyone is into bacon; it's not for everyone (my apologies/condolences to those who aren't permitted). I suppose it's equally possible that one might not be interested in growing a shade-tolerant shrub with fragrant flowers under a window that catches breezes.

Over 8' tall in 2008. Local deer seem to be slackers, so I cut it back myself in 2011

Heck, some of you might not even look forward to opening your windows to bring in that first breath of warm, fresh spring air (personally, the wait is killing me). Perish the thought of experiencing the frisson that might accompany inhaling the delicate perfume of those numerous little yellow flowers found in clusters up and down the slender, yet sometimes lengthy (see above), stems of the spicebush.

Individually insignificant, the tiny flowers are borne in overwhelming numbers. Certainly whelming numbers, at least.
I know, too, that a shrub which merely grows medium green, unvariegated, yet-tasty-to-the-larvae-of-the-beautiful-spicebush-swallowtail foliage which turns yellow in fall may be equally unappealing.

Even though mid-October (2009) this is pretty representative of average summer foliage, hints of fall color notwithstanding.
One year and six days later, full bore fall color.

An anomalous curled leaf conceals...
a spicebush swallowtail larva. Don't be fooled by the eyes; this is the posterior end.
Empty pupal case

And those little red berries it produces, reportedly eaten by songbirds, are certainly responsible for a scattering of seedlings around any but the cultivar 'Rubra' (I've never laid eyes on one yet) and probably represent a threat to any nearby Amur honeysuckle colony!

A pretty threat to Amur honeysuckle? You be the judge.
Never mind, either, how well it's adapted for use in one of those trendy rain gardens (in the wild it's commonly found growing in bottomlands [which have nothing to do with your derriere- grow up!]). Although it hasn't happened to the spicebush in my garden (northeast corner of the house, the bed surrounded by perforated drain pipe connected to the downspout), have reported that deer may make a meal of the slender branches. So, deer like it. I bet they don't like bacon, though.

However, I still understand that, like the many witchhazels (locally, they win the first-shrub-to-bloom contest), spicebush isn't for everyone.

Perhaps not even for some of you who DO like bacon.