I really don't like the word 'Buckeye'. I don't know why it just seems to stick on the tongue! I do, however, love the Bottlebrush Buckeye or Aesculus parviflora. Are any of you growing this shrub? It is hardy from zone 5 through 8, at least, with some sources listing it from zones 4-9. That is a pretty wide range. I have had this plant in the garden for fifteen years or so. It is a very forgiving shrub tolerant of average garden soil and it has few pest problems although something did chew a bit on these leaves. It prefers partial shade to shade and is native to the Southeastern United States! I guess that makes it a native plant although if it's not growing within a hundred mile radius of my yard I have trouble feeling that it is a legitimate 'native' plant, to me, anyway. There goes a big debate on native! This is a shrub which takes a bit of time to develop its' truly unique spreading habit. Mine is planted under an oak tree, which is definitely native, and it gets quite a bit of shade in this location. Michael Dirr , in his book the Manuel of Woody Landscape Plants, says, "This is an excellent plant for massing, clumping or placing in shrub borders". His book is my bible and his word rarely fails or disappoints. The shrub languished without moving much in the first five or six years of its' life. I then decided that I needed to prune it a bit to force it to spread. The year after pruning, it sent out suckers which emerged a couple of feet from the main stem so I continued this practice of pruning it just a bit in the spring and it continues to reach out a bit further each year. It has a rather coarse winter texture but that is a plus! The snow catches on the stems and it is so much more interesting to see the stiff branches coated with snow than just the trunk of an oak tree. Winter needs its' own special little tricks to create interest in the garden.
I know that mine could have a few more flowers (note to self...add some organic fertilizer and a layer of compost next spring) but, I am happy that it is flowering and it is in a fair amount of shade. A bit more sun might also help to promote more flowers. What is more elegant that white flowers?
I love the spread and breadth of this plant. It is about eight feet tall and fifteen feet wide which is what is listed as its' optimum height. The palmate leaves are an attractive dark green. Most visitors to the garden do comment on this shrub even when it is not in bloom so there is an unusual appearance to its' form and foliage. It doesn't scream 'Look at Me' but subtly sits there with a bit of quiet majesty. I hope some of you are growing it and can share your observations!