I am writing this article in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing is the practice and the norm. I have begun a little Facebook ritual I call Sunday Morning with Mark Leichty, where I post video and photos from my favorite local gardens. Each “episode” begins with the reading of a Shel Silverstein poem. Last week, I visited Dancing Oaks Nursery, which truly is “The Place Where the Sidewalk Ends!” I have found these outings and the photos I share to be cathartic for many people that view them.
One of the most liked photos recently was of Stachyurus praecox var. matsuzakii, which was first discovered on the remote island of Hachijo-jima some 100 miles into the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo. Commonly called a catkin tree, this beautiful shrub/small tree is adorned with stunning 6- to 10-inch pedant racemes in spring. The flowers are creamy-yellow and are adored by bees. The large vase-shaped shrub reaches a height of 15 feet when fully mature, which is somewhat larger than other S. praecox varieties. It grows well in full sun to dappled shade. The flowers, to my dismay, have little or no fragrance. Stachyurus prefer humus-rich, evenly moist soil, and do best with periodic water during dry summers. The large structure of S. praecox var. matsuzakii provides great habitat and cover for birds during the summer. The fall color of this deciduous shrub is yellow to golden.
I have seldom seen this elegant plant for sale, except at specialty nurseries like Dancing Oaks. I would love to see it become more mainstream, because it certainly deserves a more prominent place in North American gardens.
Why grow Stachyurus praecox var. matsuzakii?
- It is a beautiful shrub with pendulous yellow flowers in early to mid-spring.
- It provides nectar for early foraging bees.
- It makes an eye-catching statement in the garden.
- It is easy to grow and requires little pruning or care.
- It grows well in full sun to light shade.
- Propagated from seeds or softwood cuttings.
Mark Leichty is the Director of Business Development at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery near Portland. He is a certified plant geek who enjoys visiting beautiful gardens and garden centers searching for rare and unique plants to satisfy his plant lust. firstname.lastname@example.org