Foliage Follow-Up – Noth your usual panax

Happy Foliage Follow-Up Day, everyone! My post this month is part ongoing (possibly resolved?) plant mystery, and part search for a very elusive exclusive. At a trip to Heronswood last September, I snapped a picture of a gorgeous shrub with wavy, sort of undulating, waxy leaves – a fabulous texture. It stopped me in my tracks – absolutely beautiful! I didn’t even know where to begin in identifying it, but it also caught the eye of my friend Loree, of Danger Garden fame. She joined in the search for answers… We went through a few options:

As part of Monrovia’s Dan Hinkley collection is a hardy Shefflera. At first, because I saw this shrub at Heronswood, I thought it might make sense since Dan Hinkley was involved, but the Shefflera photos weren’t really showing what I wanted to see. In fact, although the leaves seemed reasonably similar, the Shefflera has a much airier look about it, whereas the mystery shrub seems denser, and less “layered”.  It’s hard to tell from photos, but Loree who is better acquainted with Sheffleras than I am said ‘Naah’. Even I – at least occasionally – listen to authority, so the search continued. Being nowhere near certainty, Loree posed the problem to the numerous readers of her blog, and from a commenter she got the answer that is probably the closest one yet – a dwarf ornamental peach tree – Prunus persica ‘Pink Peachy’. So far, so good! It looks an awful lot like it – and for a brief moment this was really exciting! That is, until I realized that I was looking at a Czech website. Go figure… Oh well, if they have it over there, you’d think they’d offer it over here too… right? Well, back in September of 2013, I couldn’t find anything about it, and just now (June 2014) I checked a couple of plant databases again – Plant lust, as well as OAN’s. Sad to say, but NOTHING!

This fantastic shrub was growing in an understory setting at Heronswood. I guess one could call it partial shade as the area was still rather open with good light. Such fabulous foliage!

This fantastic shrub was growing in an understory setting at Heronswood. I guess one could call it bright shade as the area was still rather open with good light. Such fabulous foliage! Because of this being Heronswood, and because of Dan Hinkley’s ties to Monrovia, I’m crossing my fingers that it is being propagated as I write this, and that before long, we will see it popping up in nurseries all over the place. A girl can dream, right?

Once learning how unobtainable this darn peachy little thing is, but not quite ready to forget about it, one subconsciously trains oneself to be on the constant lookout for those wavy leaves – or anything that comes close – in the event that one, by happenstance, might happen to stumble upon one. In this case it happened sooner than I thought.

Just over a month after our nursery tour of the Kitsap Peninsula, I visited a small but mighty little nursery I had only heard about through other garden geek friends – a little place in far NE Portland called Viscaya. This was also the first time I met William – the owner of this little gem. Quite unusual, the first thing I saw of the nursery were tables set up in what was mostly a parking lot. The tables held nursery pots filled with a plethora of interesting and uncommon plants. The tables continued along a path, flanked by tables winding through a  garden planted with all kinds of unusual fare. In the various pots, I recognized several favorites I already had growing in my garden, and almost instantly, I started rearranging the ranking order of Favorite Portland Nurseries in my head.

I should have realized something was going on – the prices of the plants were ridiculous, and I bought far more than I had intended – both for me and to give away to friends and neighbors. As winter was drawing near, the stated reason that no greenhouse existed seemed a passable explanation for the mega-sale , albeit a little strange – but hey, I bought it! Greed can justify anything, right? With a car loaded full of plants, I drove home, determined to tell all my garden-nut friends about the unbelievable luck of having discovered such an amazing place.  Anyway, long story short – one of the featured plants in the garden had literally made me jump! It wasn’t quite as showy as Pink Peachy, but it had great foliage with somewhat wavy edges. Progress!!! If  Viscaya had it, maybe this nice William-dude I had just met could point me in the direction to where I could find it?

Well, as you probably know, things are rarely as good as they seem. After the customary, yet shallow, vote of support (as in a “like” on Facebook) I started to see updates indicating that Viscaya was going out of business. I was mortified, but it all made more sense now. When the post indicating that whatever was planted in the garden was up for grabs for a spit-shine appeared, I swallowed my sorrow, and greedily went back. Amazingly, the wavy shrub was still there, and William helped me dig it up. It sat unplanted, all winter long, lodged together with another rescued treasure – Indigofera kirilowii – in a large nursery pot in my little unheated garden shed until the first warm rays of sun this spring when it finally got to put its chilled toes into the thawing ground. All I knew, was that it was some kind of “panax” something. 

Far from as striking as the  'Pink Peachy', I still fell hard for it. Love those wavy edges!

Far from as striking as the ‘Pink Peachy’, I still fell hard for it. Love those wavy edges!

It wasn’t until my friend and fellow plant geek Jane came over for a visit, that I got the full name of it. She called it a Nothopanax delavayi. Excited to have a full name, I googled it to find out more. That’s where the real confusion started. Even the experts disagree on this one…

The most enlightening info I found on the matter was this from a Mr. Douglas Justice, Associate Director and Curator of Collections at UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research. I learned a few vital things from him:

1) “… all Nothopanax species are tropical plants and exhibit pinnately compound leaves….”

2) “… those of the more temperate Metapanax (and Eleutherococcus) produce simple to palmately compound leaves: M. davidii with primarily simple and three-lobed, occasionally compound, three-foliate leaves, the usually unstalked leaflets more than 2.5 cm wide, and M. delavayi with simple to five-foliate leaves, the usually stalked leaflets generally less than 2.5 cm wide.”

3) “… the two temperate Chinese species previously referred to under Nothopanax are now (after considerable to-ing and fro-ing over the last 120 years), correctly, species of Metapanax…”


Well, what do you think? This looks pretty much like three-lobed , compound leaves to me - and single ones too, for that matter - just like Douglas said.

Well, what do you think? This looks pretty much like three-lobed , compound leaves to me – and an abundance of single ones too, for that matter – just like what Douglas Justice described. I now think that what is growing in my garden is a Metapanax davidii – at least that is what I will be calling it, until I meet someone who can prove me wrong.

As I was out there counting lobes, I noticed to my great joy that there is a flower bud appearing. How exciting! I can't wait to see what it will do! :)

As I was out there counting lobes, I noticed to my great joy that there is a flower bud appearing. How exciting! I can’t wait to see what it will do – if anyting! 🙂

Well, this is about as far as I have come in my quest for a Prunus persicaria ‘Pink Peachy’. My eyes are still peeled for the real thing, but I have no real hope of seeing it anytime soon. If any of you would run into one somewhere, please let me know how I can get one. But, until that magical day, why not click over to Pam Pennick’s blog Digging and get inspired by what other marvelous foliage is appearing in gardens the world over.



About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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11 Responses to Foliage Follow-Up – Noth your usual panax

  1. Have you been to Lan Su? We’ll be visiting as part of the Fling and they have a lovely Meta/Notho next to the pond and tea house. I’ve also seen a huge tree sized version in Lauren Hall-Behrens garden: Mine got nipped back hard last winter and the new growth that’s sprung up in it’s place has very different leaves than the older parts.

    As for that darn peach (?) I was thinking about it just the other day…

    • annamadeit says:

      You know, I did see that post about Lauren’s Metapanax. That one has more slender leaves, it seems. I’ve been to Lan Su many times, but will make sure to look especially for it during the Fling tour. Good heavens – I’m going to have to take something out to make room for this beauty… Sorry yours took a beating – first winter, then a bear… Who would have thunk..? But yes, the variation of leaves are so interesting. Do you have 3-lobed, or 5-lobed, or neither?

      • Mine is 1, 3 and 5 lobed. The leaves on the older growth are much thinner than the new growth.

        • annamadeit says:

          Hmmm…. wonder if its delavayi, or davidii, or neither, or a cross between the two. Jeez – I’m starting to realize that ID-ing these plants is probably beyond me – I’m going to try to enjoy my nameless wonder just as it is, without the label! 🙂

  2. ricki grady says:

    Oh, the length to which we will go when smitten by a plant. Makes for an absorbing story.

  3. Pam/Digging says:

    Plant lust will drive one to great lengths! I can see why you’ve fallen for this beauty of a plant. I hope you’re able to procure one eventually.

  4. Hannah says:

    Lovely wavy edges and shiny leaves, worthy of pursuit.

  5. Pingback: Bloom Day – July 2014 | Flutter & Hum

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