Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Plant ID: Abelia x grandiflora

One morning I was heading to a meeting in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and came across this glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) planted in what looked like a tree pit. Even though the above plant might not be the prettiest specimen I have ever seen, glossy abelia is an excellent shrub and worth mentioning.

Let's look at the above conditions. Planted in a tree pit we know the plant has limited root space. Since it is out on the curb I am going to assume that it doesn't get supplemental irrigation aside from rain storms. The plant is in full sun, perhaps part shade for some of the day. Being on the edge of a large street I know it is exposed to wind and pollution. And yet, this plant is holding up very well. I think with some pruning out of deadwood and/or dieback this dense multi-stemmed shrub would be a beautiful specimen.

Glossy abelia is a wonderfully durable and reliable shrub. It grows best in zones 6-9. It is not the showiest plant in the northeast, but it can provide medium structure (in terms of size) and medium texture (in terms of the leaf size) to any green space. It mixes well with either perennials or trees and evergreens, or both. This picture is a close-up of the same plant. You can see here how attractive the foliage can be if kept pruned and neat.
I have used glossy abelia mostly as a foundation planting, both in the country and the city. It grows comfortably to 3'-6' high and wide. Once established I have seen the plant tolerate some drought. Perhaps one of my favorite characteristics about this plant is it's long bloom time. Small white tubular flowers are borne in clusters starting in June and can last for months. Even after the flowers pass the shrub holds on to it's reddish sepals which add an extra bit of color and texture. These pictures were taken mid-September and the plant was still covered in blossoms, not to mention pollinators. It is important that we pay attention to pollinator populations as they tell us a lot about the state of the environment.

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