A New Shrub Experiment

Zenobia pulverulenta in pot

What plant lover can resist the offer of a free plant — especially when the plant is a native shrub not currently growing in that plant lover’s garden? I confess, my willpower is weak when this temptation occurs.

Such a situation arose just last week when I visited the Cure Nursery as part of a field trip with the North Carolina Native Plant Society (NCNPS). The Cure Nursery is a wholesale operation specializing in native plants adapted to wetlands.

Companies that buy plants from Cure Nursery are mostly involved in wetland restoration projects. For example, when a road or bridge is built near a creek or other water source, native vegetation is usually destroyed. Environmental regulations require builders to re-vegetate such sites with appropriate native plants. Thus the need for suppliers like the Cure Nursery.

The Cures not only generously offered the NCNPS a tour of their facility, they also offered each member a free plant. They had more Zenobia pulverulenta shrubs than they needed and offered them to anyone in the group who wanted one. I could not resist.

This shrub is not technically native to the southeast piedmont. It occurs naturally in southeast swamps and bogs in the coastal plain. But natural occurrences of this shrub have been noted as close as one county south of mine. And part of our yard is a wetland, so I do have some relatively moist potential sites, despite the severe drought that plagues my region currently.

After pondering my new shrub’s site requirements, I opted to plant it yesterday just inside my deer fence at the bottom of a northeast-facing hill. The area only floods during major events, but remains quite moist because of water that percolates down from the top of the hill.

Yesterday was cool and cloudy, and the weekend is supposed to be downright cold and –theoretically — wet (still not typing the R word), so I figured it was an optimal moment to transplant my newest acquisition. I generally try to avoid planting new trees and shrubs in spring, because our summers are so hard on new transplants. But when a free, interesting shrub is offered, exceptions must sometimes be made.

The picture above is the plant in its pot sitting in front of my greenhouse. The daffodils in the photo are growing in the bed that surrounds the greenhouse. I don’t have an “after” shot of the planted shrub yet. I can tell you that I encountered gazillions of earthworms when I dug the hole for this shrub, and that the soil was loamy and moist but not wet. After tucking it into the ground, I mulched and watered it well, so I’m hoping it will adjust and be happy in its new home.

While I had the shovel out, I relocated some of the Bloodroots from their naturally occurring location to inside the deer fence on a slope closely resembling their original spots. And I relocated a few just-emerging Mayapples to a nice damp spot inside the deer fence not far from the new shrub. I’ll tell you more about Mayapples another time.

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