Twilight: New Wood

We are reinventing our company. Since 2006 we have been transforming from a small but extremely diverse regional mail order nursery into a larger and more broadly assorted national research and production company with several nurseries, test gardens and a greater online presence.

One of our perduring services is a close personal contact with customers. We invite you to Open Days at Fordhook Farm in Doylestown, PA, and at the original site in Kingston, WA—now our zone 8 and 9 research and display gardens. We held many Open Day weekends in 2009—with most of the proceeds donated to The Garden Conservancy—and plan more for 2010. Please stay tuned to this website.

Another way to talk to our customers is through email and weblog media. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed our Heronswood Nursery emails and my Heronswood Voice blogs. Soon we shall upgrade our web services for 2010, with everything up and ready in a couple of months.

Now enjoy a new blog about the current vogue for eternal love, sustaining beauty and enduring fidelity. (Edward Cullen might consider becoming “vegan”.) In any case, our passion is for stamens, chlorophyll and deep roots. Like you, we love new, rare and unusual plants. However, if you’re looking for Heronswood cultivars that will live many long, moonlit years, you’ve come to the right blog. These special selections will help you serve your new-found lust, or recurring addiction.

A few ground rules, so to speak. For a kind of immortality—not absolute—you must look first to the trees, and in general the taller, the better. Of all plants, the woody plants tend to be the longest lived. Larger more than smaller, alas. Some shrubs live an extremely long time because they can rejuvenate from the roots, if well established in the garden.

Heck, Kristen Stewart should get to know the Trembling Aspen, in particular the stand of them out in Southern Utah. It’s not only beautiful (even from a jet plane at 40,000 feet), it’s also over 75,000 years old and comprises one single plant, about 100 acres in size. It is, in effect, a single “tree” organism.  Try that in “Twilight“.

To add to today’s cinematic theme, I point out that woody vines can be extremely long-lived too, twining and wrapping themselves around, well, their sturdier neighbor. “Love the one you’re with!”

Here’s the timeless line-up:

Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn redwood) – This will last, under normal conditions, at least 200 years.


Buxus microphylla japonica ‘Morris Midget’ – minimum 50 years

Buxus sempervirens ‘Elegantissima’ – minimum 50-60 years

Hydrangea, any, as well as the related vines, such as Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Roseum’– minimum 35 years

Rosa ‘Eddie’s Jewel’– minimum 50 years

Rosa noisetliana ‘Darlow’s Enigma’– minimum 50 years

Tsuga canadensis ‘Cole’s Prostrate’(a dwarf form of a woodland coniferous tree) – minimum 75 years, lasts up to 150-200 years

Wisteria brachbotrys ‘Shiro-kapitan’ – minimum 50 to 60 years up to 100s

Wisteria floribunda ‘Violacea Plena’ – minimum 50 to 60 years up to 100s

Wisteria macrostachya ‘Blue Moon’– minimum 50 to 60 years up to 100s


Helleborus species and Heronswood cultivars– minimum 40 years

Paeonia (Itoh Hybrid Peony) any, such as ‘Kopper Kettle’– minimum 40 years

Papaver – any Heronswood varieties – minimum 50 years

Panicum amarum ‘Dewey Blue’– minimum 15 to 20 years

Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’ PP12909– minimum 25-30 years

Dried plants and herbarium books go just so far and no more—flat, drained on a page or a bit dusty and stiff in a vase. Not quite so much for your descendents and their descendents—but not bad.

Heronswood’s more genuine “everlastings” are alive and, well, green-blooded. All they need is a bit of planning up front and then ongoing attention. I’ve always thought that they’re a bit like pets. Only they last longer, need less care . . . and don’t bite quite as often.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 at 10:24 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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15 Responses to “Twilight: New Wood”

  1. Sally said:

    Alas! Promising information but unfortunately almost none applicable to us in SE Texas. I do enjoy your articles but please do think of us down in the warmer part of zone 8. Austin has had 60+ days of over 100 degrees temp. with no rain. Your suggested plants would not do well in those circumstances.

  2. B Rein said:

    Dear Sally

    Try the grasses or grass-like plants we sell (such as Stipa tenuissima ‘Wind Whispers’, Ophiopogon, Pennisetum), or rudbeckias, coneflowers (Echinacea), Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’, Agave ‘Spot‘, Yucca ‘Bright Star’, agapanthus. George mentioned our Panicum ‘Dewey Blue’ a great compact bluish-leaved switchgrass found near Dewey Beach, Delaware. How about Hakonechloa in shade? Maybe these perennials won’t last 50 years, but ten-fifteen or more is decent. Coming in 2010 we will have a few camellias worth trying. They live a long time in the shade. Here in the Philadelphia area we have to rely on just a few newer hardy cultivars and plant them in just the right protected place to enjoy them — maybe only until a harsh winter shows up. Crape myrtles work in Texas heat, but aren’t nearly so reliable in the northern half or third of the U.S. Heronswood doesn’t carry them, but I know they last a long, long time in the south.

    Bill Rein, Horticulturalist – Heronswood Nursery

  3. Sally said:

    Anything that grows well on a beach in Delaware probably would not last a season in central Texas. I have crepe myrtles that are over 40 years old and camellias that are over 20 years old. Just looking for something that would bloom for extended periods and live for a long time without the trouble of having to be cut back as with grasses each fall.

  4. George said:

    Dear Sally – Best I can suggest isn’t too much. Have you asked your local extension agent? What do you like? My experience of Texas includes Austin a long time ago, Houston back in the 90s for just a few memorable visits, and West Texas, which reminded me of Arizona. East Texas seems more like the Deep South to me. Another memory is of extraordinarily variable climates which I believe were gulf-related in the East and massive continental systems in the West.

    Austin was a truly fabulous little city but often extremely hot in summer, as you mentioned. On the other hand, the lovely weather of the western “Hill Country” I enjoyed very much, though I hear it has become a bit touristic in the last decade. I have friends in Austin. Strangely, many folks leave Texas, which must be a family related thing. Some return later. Honestly, I think Texas is one of the greatest places in the world. Walls Rise Up by George Sessions Perry says it all for me. I see no reason to leave. My mentor, Claude Hope, was from Sweetwater, a small town in West Texas. Now, there might have been a place to leave. He moved to Costa Rica in 1945 and never looked back. This seems to be true for many natives of rural West Texas. He especially enjoyed botanizing along the highways during his visits to Texas looking for Eustoma species.

    I, for one, envy you your Live Oaks–a very interesting tree to say the least. Some specimens are phenomenal. Also, many Asian plants are also heat-tolerant, despite perceptions to the contrary.

    We’re not traditionally a “Texas” style nursery–very difficult if we’re not in Texas. But we have quite a few warm wet zone 8 plants, even if they may not be particularly long in their life spans. I assume you are southeast of Austin? Thanks again for posting.


  5. denise widen said:

    A zone 4 gardener that I met this summer..(who lives on the extraordinarily beautiful Manitoulin Island, CA)….about three hundred miles North of my SE Michigan 35 x 110 foot residential lot and garden, told me this summer that most deciduous trees do not have genetic programming for “death”, but rather die off because of cyclical environmental conditions related to multiple years of drought, or competition for micronutrient resources from other plants/trees in the area, or disease agents.

    So..this means that the absolutely stellar seventy year old black oak growing in front of my house might be there forever so long as I continue to water extensively in the summer to compensate for all of the paved areas surrounding its roots? I need to know where to look to find out more about these things to be a good steward of my tree..well, actually, my city’s it is on the official utility easement. I would stage a sit in should the tree ever be threatened…I would tie my tent around it, or rig up a harmless hammock and sleep out there with the squirrels should the need arise.

  6. Cynthia Smith said:

    So when are the open days in Doyelstown?


  7. George said:

    Dear Gracie,

    It’s a bit too early in our planning cycle for the Open Day weekends. We shall have three–one in mid spring, one in mid summer and one in late summer/early fall. Still working out dates. Please stay tuned to the Heronswood website.



  8. Bill Seidl said:

    ‘Kopper Kettle” (KK) is an Anderson intersectional hybrid. It is not an Ito hybrid because nobody named “Ito” originated it. Shame on you for taking a specific term and making it into a generic one. “Intersectional” tells you that KK is a hybrid between two sections of the genus Paeonia.

  9. Bill Rein said:

    You must be a friend of Roger Anderson in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin! Mr. Anderson most definitely is credited with having created bred) ‘Kopper Kettle’ by crossing herbaceous and tree peony parents. However, we select common names based on their common usage, and further, we strive to use names that come from respected sources. Most peony sources, including information found on the web, refer to the Intersectional Peony Hybrids as “Itoh Hybrids.” Sources who officially refer to these crosses as “Itoh Hybrids” include the American Peony Society, who registers Roger Anderson’s hybrids as such.

    Bill Rein, Horticulturalist – Heronswood Nursery

  10. shelby cain said:

    All the above so inspiring. Thank you a million times over.

  11. Paul J said:

    I enjoyed this last posting, right to the point. Keep up the good work!

  12. sharen said:

    fascinating information on the Quaking Aspen. Had no idea these were not individuals and the age a grove can achieve.

  13. Michael said:

    Thank you for clarifying the 75000year old Trembling Aspen…I knew there was such a plant but for the life of me could not remember what it was. I thought it was a Juniper although I know there are some really old ones that exist.

  14. Nancy Wright said:

    I had no idea that some of our plants can live so long. Thank you for the info. Hopefully the 2010 Heronswood news will be as interesting . Keep up the good work.

  15. REA said:

    Talking about longevity in plants etc.,in 1973 I purchased a Redwood burl from a nursery, advertised as a “dish garden”. Instructed to place this burl in a shallow dish with some charcoal, I looked forward for some ferny fronds to poke their little heads out of the center. There was no expectation that this “dish garden” would do anything spectacular and would probably last maybe 6 months or so, with luck. However, after a few months of tender care, I noticed not only a few ferny points starting to come up out of the center of the burl but, upon turning it over, a few little white roots starting to poke out.Of course, being a gardener, I naturally went out, got a pot, filled it some nice leaf mold and VOILA…30 some odd years later I can hardly see the top of my beautiful Redwood (Sequoia gigantea), now standing at approximately 50 ft. and where I used to be able to hug the little dickens, well forget about THAT!! It’s my pride and joy and brings me such a sense of accomplishment as all tillers of the soil must feel when they can produce a tree, a plant or any growing thing, that the best of advisors had predicted could never be done. To them, I say,”OH YES WE CAN!”

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