Seduced by the Charms of Old Fashioned Flowering Weigela…

June 6th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ tumbles over the wall at Ferncliff, spilling blossoms into the Secret Garden below. Stonework by Vermont artist Dan Snow

To look at the voluminous cascade of crimson blossoms spilling over my Secret Garden wall this week, you’d never guess that this Red Prince (Weigela florida) is positioned in the toughest, most exposed corner of my blustery, ledgy site. Bearing the full force of the northwest wind as it blasts across the ridge straight from the Green Mountains, I fully expected my Weigela to perish in its first winter. Five years later, in spite of sub-zero temperatures, snow drifts, thick sheets of ice, and the doubts of a rather pessimistic mistress, the prince of my garden is once again greeting June cloaked in the most glorious red robe I have ever seen. As you can see, there he sits; sprawled out in the sun, high atop the Secret Garden wall, where his funnel-shaped flowers attract legions of hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and countless sighs.

Old-fashioned in both form and habit, Weigela florida has gone in and out of garden style for years. Because of its sturdy nature -rarely troubled by pests and disease- certain Weigela cultivars have become somewhat over-used in municipal landscapes. Once again a victim of its own success, many designers now consider this shrub a bit common – perhaps even a garden cliché. As for this hortimaniac? Please… Give me a break! I find the whole notion of garden fads more than a little ridiculous. Every plant has its place. And as they say – a thing of beauty is a joy forever. A knock-out in bloom and a fine green presence throughout the growing year, Weigela’s flower-show lasts three weeks in my garden, with sporadic repeats later in the season. And as if this generous floral display weren’t enough, newer Weigela cultivars, including maroon-leaved and dwarf selections, have expanded this shrub’s three-season design potential with stunning foliage. My collection of ‘cardinal bushes’ -as they are sometimes called- now includes ‘Java Red’, (see photograph below), ‘Variegata’, ‘Alexandra’, ‘My Monet’, and of course the ‘Red Prince’, among others…

Weigela florida planted in a woodland-edge setting for one of my garden design clients 3 years ago…

Weigela florida on the far side of my client’s garden, forming a cascading, flowering boundary between hillside garden and the shaded forest beyond…

Hardy at least through zones 4-9, (certain selections offer a greater hot/cold hardiness range), and tolerant of many soil types, (Weigela prefers slightly acidic, moist, but not wet soil), this is a perfect shrub for gardeners in cold, moderate and mild climates. When positioned in full sun to partial shade, Weigela rewards the gardener with a cascade of flowers from late spring through early summer. Spectacular spilling over walls or embankments, larger cultivars are also perfect for the center or back of sunny borders and for creating informal hedges. Dwarf selections, such as ‘Minuet’ are ideal for smaller gardens and tight garden situations, including containers. With dozens of handsome cultivars to choose from, including many with spectacular, variegated and mottled foliage, (such as the knock-out introduction, ‘My Monet’), there is a Weigela suitable for almost any temperate garden climate. Yes, my ‘Red Prince’ Weigela may be old-fashioned, but he sure knows how to charm…

The ‘Red Prince’ Weigela florida Atop the Secret Garden Wall in June. Stonework by Vermont artist Dan Snow

Weigela florida ‘Java Red’s  bright fuchsia colored blossoms are a  favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees…

Weigela florida ‘Java Red’ takes center stage after Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’s’ blooms have faded…

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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