Aronia arbutifolia

2015 – Chokeberry

Chokeberry is an attractive multi-stemmed deciduous shrub that maintains great horticultural interest throughout the seasons.  Beautiful corymbs of showy white flowers appear in April, and the leaves change to a bright red color as fall arrives.  The glossy red fruits ripen in the fall and persist well into winter.  These fruits are edible, but so incredibly tart that they may cause you to choke, rightfully earning this shrub’s common name as Chokeberry.  Even the birds wait until it frosts for them to sweeten.  Although it can withstand part shade, plant the Chokeberry in full sun for best fruit production.

Chokeberry is a member of the Rose family and grows from Maine south to Florida, and west to Texas.  It is hardy in zones 4-9, reaching 6-10 feet high while spreading 3-6 feet, developing into a vase shape in maturity.  This shrub tends to sucker and form colonies.  It can tolerate a wide range of soil types and it can withstand relatively wet conditions, as it often grows near wetlands.  Currently there are differences in the accepted scientific names.  The plant is sometimes referred to as Photinia pyrifolia, although here at Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens we accept and use Aronia arbuitfolia as its official name.

Phlox divaricata

2016 – Wild Blue Phlox

Wild blue phlox or woodland phlox is a slow-growing herbaceous groundcover belonging to the Phlox plant family Polemoniaceae. At maturity, wild blue phlox can reach 12-18 inches in height and 8-12 inches in spread. The opposite, narrow leaves are slightly pubescent just like the stem. One subtle feature to observe is that the leaf tips tend to be blunt. The flower of P. divaricata blooms April through May. The five petaled flowers are shallowly notched. The flowers of wild blue phlox are cross pollinated by bumblebees, swallowtail butterflies, skippers, and moths.

As the common name implies, woodland phlox is native to the deciduous woods which explains why P. divaricata likes to grow in rich, moist, well-drained, average soils with part sun to light or dappled shade. If planted in dense shade, wild blue phlox will not be as floriferous. And that would be a real shame because the fragrant, lavender flowers attract hummingbirds, too. For more flowers, cut back after the first bloom to allow a second flush of flowers to emerge. Wild blue phlox makes an excellent addition to a naturalized perennial garden or to a rock garden. Wild Blue Phlox does not tolerate drought conditions. Additionally, wild blue phlox can be susceptible to powdery mildew, but moist, well-drained soil and good air flow should be able to prevent the fungus from affecting the plant