About a month ago, I asked for your favorite plants that last well in a vase, and you kindly gave me some great input. Last week – two days after the election – I finished sprucing up the 100′ bed in front of the Monastery. For ease of maintenance, this bed will be mostly shrubs, but I thought long and hard, and asked the advice of several great flower arrangers, to ensure they will be of varieties that are valuable for bouquets.
My story for today is in regards to the spot underneath the blue arrow. Obviously, the bed is dominated by those two big trees. One is a Liriodendron, and the other a dark leaved Maple of some sort. As I was initially looking at that bed, I felt that spot needed something rather large, but not so big as to spill over into the pathway, or grow up into the nearby maple. But it definitely needed a statement of some sort, to cap off that long bed and frame the view of the entrance. Of course there are endless options that would fit that description, but for whatever reason, the plant that popped into my head was a Vitex. “That’s it, Aden… we need a Vitex there. It will look amazing!” To show my dear helper what I was thinking, I looked it up on my phone… and then I realized it. I swear – I had TOTALLY forgotten that the common name for Vitex agnus-castus is Chaste Tree!
OMG – it was indeed PERFECT! Not only is it a beautiful shrub, but back in the Middle Ages, monks used a concoction made from this tree, to curb their libido – it helped them stay chaste. As medieval monastery gardens were the cultural centers for medical and herbal research of their time, Vitex was always part of what was grown. So all jokes aside, this plant really SHOULD be part of the cast of shrubs and trees of any monastery – but yeah, I laughed.
‘Agnus’ by the way, means ‘lamb’ in Latin. Per Wikipedia, the 14th century Cornish writer John Trevisa reported the tree would turn men into lambs; “the herbe agnus-castus is always grene, and the flowre therof is namly callyd Agnus Castus, for wyth smel and vse it maketh men chaste as a lombe”
So, what else did I plant in that long bed? Here is a fairly complete list:
Thermopsis dolobrata ‘Nana’
Thuja ‘Sherwood Frost’
Chamacyparis filifera ‘Aurea’
Cotinus ‘Velvet Cloak’
Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’ (I sneakily planted one of each Cotinus, because I wanted to see what the difference is. I have yet not been able to figure that out.)
Itea virginica ‘Henry’s garnet’ (the most awesome, long-lasting red fall color)
Cistus platycepalus (not great for cutting as far as I know, but the south end of this bed is hot, hot, hot. I also moved a Grevillea victoriae ‘Murray Queen’ there, from the Meditation Circle.
Symphoricarpos (a pink variety)
Lonicera ‘Baggesen’s Gold’
Eleagnus ‘Gilt Edge’
Weigela ‘Briant rubidor’ (amazing fall color!)
Deutzia ‘Pink Pompom’
Polystichum munitum (sword fern)
There were a few others that I ended up putting in the Meditation Garden. I moved some things around to make room for them:
Philadelphus madrensis (the most amazing fragrance!!)
Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoìle’
Rhamnus alaternus ‘Variegata’
The Meditation Circle already contains a lot of shrubs that work well for cutting: roses, abelias, mahonias, osmanthus, spiraea, viburnum, myrtle, fuchsia, callicarpa, camellia, red and orange dogwoods. These newcomers will make it even better. I also couldn’t resist putting a black pussy willow in their actual cutting garden, which is where they will plant all the dahlias they bought, in spring. Most of the plants are still rather small, but it is my hope that they will soon be able to make full, fabulous use of it. And I’m sure they will love the Vitex – it’s gorgeous!